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That Time JP Morgan Bought A Bank And Got A $1.1B Skyscraper Thrown In For Free

383 Madison Ave.

This week marks 10 years since one of the best — and most unconventional — real estate deals of the last downturn. 

On March 16, 2008, as the credit crunch really kicked into gear, JP Morgan bought imploding investment bank Bear Stearns for $2 a share, or $236M.

Analyzing how much a bank was actually worth in those chaotic days was nigh on impossible, but one thing stood out with the deal: Bear owned its 1.2M SF office building at New York City's 383 Madison Ave., which JP Morgan estimated to be worth $1.1B to $1.4B when it bought the company.

The building had $500M of debt secured against it, but in buying Bear, JP Morgan still paid just $236M for an asset with a net value of at least $600M.

JP Morgan had been planning to move its investment banking division to an office at the new World Trade Center development, but immediately canceled the deal, and over time moved staff to 383 Madison Ave. instead.

Midtown Manhattan office values per SF have risen by more than 35% since 2008, according to data from CommercialCafé, which means the building today would be valued at $1.45B to $1.8B.

Indeed, the deal to buy Bear may only have been positive on a real estate level. In a 2015 letter to shareholders, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon said he wished he had never bought Bear. The bank has racked up more than $19B in fines related to mortgage security trading, much of which is related to deals done by Bear.

JP Morgan is today in the midst of another major real estate deal in the Big Apple — it is planning to build a new 2.5M SF, 70-story office tower to replace its HQ at 270 Park Ave.