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Billionaire Reaches Deal To Buy Former AIG HQ From Vanbarton After Foreclosure

175 Water St., the office tower formerly home to insurance firm AIG.

The longtime former headquarters of insurance giant AIG could soon be in new hands.

Dart Enterprises, the Cayman Islands-headquartered investment firm headed up by billionaire Ken Dart, has entered into a contract to purchase the 31-story 175 Water St. office tower from Vanbarton Group, The Real Deal reports.

The deal shows there are still some investors with an appetite for older office buildings amid rising interest rates and hybrid work arrangements. Dart is reportedly under contract to buy the 684K SF tower for $252M.

Insurance titan AIG was headquartered at the building for more than two decades, but sold the property in 2019 and moved its headquarters to the Rockefeller Group’s 1271 Sixth Ave. in 2020. The insurer’s Water Street lease expired in 2021.

Real estate development and management company Metro Loft Management bought 175 Water St. from AIG for $270M, and originally planned to convert the top half of the tower into residential units, but fell behind on its mortgage payments. The developer financed the acquisition with a $170M loan from Blackstone Group and a mezzanine loan from Vanbarton, but defaulted on the mezzanine loan earlier this year — resulting in Vanbarton gaining ownership of the property.

Vanbarton hired a JLL team to market the property, according to TRD. The property is currently vacant, according to JLL’s website, “providing prospective investors a blank canvas with the opportunity to immediately pursue various repositioning strategies.”

Dart's family owns Dart Container Corp., which was founded in 1937 and produces, among other lines of products, Solo cups. Dart left the company to focus on real estate development in 2014. He is believed to be the biggest landowner in the Caymans and renounced his U.S. citizenship almost 30 years ago, according to TRD. He reportedly left the U.S. in 1994 to avoid taxes. 

Residents in the Caymans described Dart as “Batman, Howard Hughes, a Bond villain and both Warren and Jimmy Buffett,” The New York Times previously reported.