Although it isn't the most expensive apartment in the Pierre Hotel that was once owned by a recently deceased financier, the 16-room duplex on the 30th and half of the 31st floors, just listed for $70 million, is by far the most controversial. The co-op was the subject of a bitter dispute between the two adult sons of Lionel Pincus, founder of private equity firm Warburg Pincus, who died in 2009, and his consort, Princess Firyal of Jordan. Pincus bought the apartment for Firyal, spending $22.6 million, before become physically and mentally incapacitated by cancer surgery in 2006, after which his sons were named his legal guardians. Firyal, however, went on to spend millions more of Pincus' fortune combining, renovating, and furnishing the co-op, with purchases including a $129,000 table and a $750,000 pair of pottery horses from the 7th-century Tang dynasty.
The sons, accusing Firyal of "tricking" and "ripping off" their father, moved to sell the apartment, listing it for $50 million and later chopping the price to $35 million. Firyal sued to block the sale, and the sons countersued. Along the way, a number of fun insults were exchanged through the media—a source close to Firyal called the sons "greedy little sons of a bitch," and, Firyal said of Pincus, "He is a very generous man, as evidenced by the $2 to $3 million weddings he paid for [for his sons]." The sons preferred to speak through their lawyer, who said, "They think she's a menace. That's what the whole thing is about. It's not about preserving money. Above all, they want their father to be left alone." Firyal ultimately prevailed, however, and was allowed to keep the apartment after Pincus' death in 2009, as stipulated in his will. Whether or not she was approved by the co-op board is unclear, however (it was suspected that she could have some trouble after the whole debacle). In any case, the property now finds itself back on the market, for double what the Pincus sons were willing to sell it for.
· Listing: 795 Fifth Avenue #30/31 [Sotheby's]
· The Princess and the Pincuses [Observer]
· A Royal Ruckus [NYT]
· The Pierre coverage [Curbed]