Abu Dhabi fund to buy Chrysler Building
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images The New York Post broke the news today that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council is buying a controlling stake in Manhattan’s famed Chrysler Building for $800 million. This follows a deal last month in which an investment group including the Kuwait and Qatar sovereign wealth funds purchased the GM building (as well ...
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
The New York Post broke the news today that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council is buying a controlling stake in Manhattan’s famed Chrysler Building for $800 million. This follows a deal last month in which an investment group including the Kuwait and Qatar sovereign wealth funds purchased the GM building (as well as yesterday’s notably less controversial sale of the Flatiron Building to an Italian company). Judging from the giant red headline on the Drudge Report and the hysterical reader comments on the Post site, I’m guessing that this is going to be a BIG DEAL.
I understand all the reasons why oil-fueled SWFs make people uncomfortable. I also understand the all-American symbolism of the Chrysler Building, generally considered New York’s most attractive skyscraper. (Though out of pure borough pride, I’m partial to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower.) But is the fact that wealthy foreigners are buying property in one of the world’s most international cities really that revolutionary a concept? After all, Abu Dhabi is buying the Chrysler building not from Americans, but from a German investment firm.
We’ve also been here before. This 1989 Time article on the dark implications of Japanese firms buying New York real estate helps put some of today’s “decline of the West” fears into perspective. The sale of Rockefeller Center to Mitsubishi was considered especially disgraceful, as evidenced by this quote from Connecticut’s freshman senator, one Joseph Isadore Lieberman:
This year when they turn on the lights of that Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, we Americans are going to have to come to grips with the reality that this great national celebration is actually occurring on Japanese property.”
Were they going to replace it with a bonsai or something?
Nearly two decades after that deal, millions of Lieberman’s constituents continue to visit Rockefeller Center, which has been safely back in American hands since 1995. Something tells me that New Yorkers will still be proud of the Chrysler Building even if it’s owned by rich Arabs instead of rich Germans.
Joshua Keating is a former associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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