| The building housing the $44 million apartment. (Reuters)
Washington, Dec. 18: Rupert Murdoch, who is still viewed by the Kennedys, the Carnegies, the Fords or the Hearsts as a first-generation immigrant from Australia despite being the 43rd richest man in the world and a media mogul approaching omnipotence, is making a bold move ' physically.
He set tongues wagging this weekend at Christmas season high society parties from Hollywood to Manhattan by offering the biggest price ever paid for a residence in New York city: $44 million for a 20-room triplex apartment owned by the late Laurance Rockefeller.
The purchase, scooped by The New York Times, will enable Murdoch, his wife Wendi Deng and their two children to move up town ' literally ' from their present residence in a cooperative on 141, Princess Street if'
The 'ifs' are that the building's board must approve of the prospective new resident: New York's media reported that the board was in no hurry to do so and may not meet until some time next month.
The other 'if' is no problem for Murdoch. The building's rules require that any prospective buyer of a residence there must pay the entire price in cash.
Indeed, when the apartment was put on the market following Rockefeller's death in July, the Times said, potential buyers from an exclusive list were shown the property only after they proved that they had cash assets substantially above the price of the residence.
When the Murdochs move into their new penthouse overlooking Central Park, they will become neighbours to such Big Apple celebrities as Alfred Taubman, former chairman of Sotheby's, Broadway impresario Harold Prince, philanthropist Carroll Petrie, and financier John H. Gutfreund.
Murdoch's offer of $44 million for the Rockefeller penthouse surpasses two previous records in the history of Manhattan real estate. Last year, financier David Martinez paid $42.25 million to merge two apartments in the Time-Warner Centre into a single residence.
Until then, the record was $36 million paid for a triplex on Park Avenue, which was also owned by the Rockefeller family.
Howard J. Rubenstein, Murdoch's spokesman, has rebuffed all media queries about the purchase. Spokespersons for the real estate firm handling the transaction have also parried enquiries from the media citing confidentiality.
The 8,000 sq ft apartment from the 14th to the 16th floors of 834 Fifth Avenue has about half of that area in terraces. It was completed in 1931 and has 20 rooms.
The monthly cost of maintaining the property is in excess of $21,000.
Edward Lee Cave, a real estate broker who has seen the apartment, was quoted by newspapers in New York as describing it as 'one of the five best apartments' in Manhattan.
The entire building housing the apartment was bought by Rockefeller in 1946, but individual units were sold four years later with Rockefeller keeping the penthouse for himself.
Rockefeller, brother of the better known Nelson Rockefeller, died at 94 at the end of a distinguished life as a conservationist and philanthropist. He is said to have been instrumental in the family's decision to commission Mexican artist Diego Rivera to create a huge mural at New York's Rockefeller Centre in 1933. The mural, Man at the Crossroads, was destroyed a year later because Lenin featured in it.