Macklowe’s Bid to Avoid Default Goes Down to Wire

With only hours to go before the deadline for a deal on Macklowe Properties’ $7 billion debt on a portfolio of Manhattan trophy towers, key details apparently still remain unsettled. As reported by CPN last Friday, the firm’s founder, Harry Macklowe, had tentatively agreed to turn over control of the buildings to Deutsche Bank AG. The investment bank provided $5.8 million in short-term debt toward Macklowe’s acquisition of the towers from Equity Office Properties Trust a tear ago. Macklowe also faces a deadline today to repay the other major piece of the debt financing package, a $1.2 billion loan from Fortress Investment Group. It is still unclear what form the final deal will take, but the complexity of the financing of Macklowe’s acquisition last year is reportedly creating challenges for the parties. For example, General Electric Capital Corp., which holds the subordinate debt on several of the buildings, has not yet okayed the deal, according to an account by Jennifer Forsyth in the Wall Street Journal. According to a report by Zachery Kouwe and Lois Weiss in today’s NewYork Post, the former Equity Office buildings are now on the block. To repay the $1.2 billion debt to Fortress Investment, Macklowe is shopping the General Motors Building, one of Manhattan’s premiere office towers. Local sources say the building, which Macklowe bought in 2003, could fetch well in excess of $3 billion. Bids are reportedly due next Friday, and a report by Zachery Kouwe and Lois Weiss in today’s New York Post suggested that World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein may have an inside track. Lew Cowan, an executive managing director in Grubb & Ellis’ Manhattan office, said he has no inside knowledge of a possible sale but added that the GM Building would be a perfect fit for Silverstein. He has recently teamed with CalSTRS, the giant California state teachers’ pension fund, on several high-profile Manhattan acquisitions. “These guys have deep pockets,” he said of CalSTRS. “They have certainly bonded with Larry as the guy to get it done–their go-to guy in New York.” Cowan, who has known Silverstein for years, also cited his reputation for first-class handling of tenants at premiere Manhattan office buildings. This morning, however, other Manhattan real estate insiders privately expressed skepticism about the rumor, saying that the $3 billion-plus price tag for the GM building might be too steep even for a deep-pocketed institution like CalSTRS.