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NEW YORK CITY-Locally based Macklowe Properties has hired CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. to sell the General Motors building at 767 Fifth Ave., an unnamed source familiar with the deal confirms to GlobeSt.com. Representatives from CB Richard Ellis could not comment by press deadline. William Macklowe tells GlobeSt.com that he has no comment at this time.

A Manhattan-based real estate investment banker tells GlobeSt.com that “this is an extremely unique asset that will trigger huge demand from a host of domestic and global investors. A team of investors might be better suited to buy the property given that the sale price will likely be huge. I estimate that the GM Building could fetch roughly $3.3 to $3.8 billion today. Still, it’s tough to estimate what the market will pay for this asset. The debt markets have radically changed since Macklowe bought the property. If we knew the debt structure in place on the property, we could ball-park the expected sale price much better.”

Another anonymous industry source tells GlobeSt.com that this is an extremely rare deal to come up in the market twice three years; although they added that it is “not that surprising.” Macklowe Properties purchased the building for a record-breaking $1.4 billion from Conseco Inc. in 2003, as GlobeSt.com reported.

Deborah Jackson, executive managing director of Weiser Realty Advisors LLC, tells GlobeSt.com that since the purchase of the property in Sept. 2003 for $735 per sf, the market has strengthened for all office product, especially for well-located trophy buildings. She points to 666 Fifth Ave., “which is a great building in the area, but doesn’t have the appeal of the GM building.” It recently sold for $1,238 per sf.

When asked if the GM Building would sell for $1,500 per sf in today’s current market, Jackson said that it could and would equate to $2.9 billion. However, she notes that “it is our opinion that a range of $3 billion to $3.5 billion would not be unreasonable for this asset. Still, this represents a lot of cash, which limits the universe of buyers. Also, with more stringent underwriting, it isn’t as easy to make the difference in debt.”

Jackson adds that “many know that Macklowe needs to repay a large amount of debt in short order–quick sales are often discounted, which might bring the price to the lower end of the range mentioned. According to published reports, the 50-story Midtown building, is part of the collateral on a $1.2 billion bridge loan that Fortress Investment Group LLC made to Harry Macklowe for his $7 billion purchase of seven local properties from Office Properties Trust last February. That loan, plus interest, now totaling about almost $1.4 billion, is due Feb. 9 and according to reports, Macklowe is struggling to repay it. Although the source familiar with the deal could not confirm reasons for selling, they did note that selling “is a good deal” and stated that reasons for selling “seem fairly obvious.”

Reports also noted that Macklowe borrowed $5.8 billion from Deutsche Bank to finance the Equity Office deal and that, too, is must be repaid by Feb. 9. The total debt on the building stands at $1.9 billion.

The commercial skyscraper is located between 58th and 59th streets and rests atop an entire city block directly across the street from the Plaza Hotel. Tenants include General Motors Corp., Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Bank of America; Baron Capital; Forstmann Little & Co.; Belfer Management Inc.; Estee Lauder Cos.; Icahn Associates Corp.; K. Hovanian Cos.; and MCL Corp. among others.

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