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Landmark Manhattan building sold

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NEW YORK -- A Dubai-based investment firm said Thursday it has purchased 230 Park Avenue, a 34-story midtown Manhattan office building commonly known as the Helmsley building that sits above Grand Central Terminal's underground commuter train and subway complex.

The buyer, Istithmar PJSC, purchased the building for $705 million. The seller was 230 Park Avenue Investors LLC, of which Robert Bass of Fort Worth Texas is a lead investor.

The building's current tenants include ING Baring, Tokio Marine and Bank of Argentina. It may get a new name that makes reference to the building's new owners.

Istithmar's purchase was financed by Credit Suisse First Boston. The Dubai investment company paid less than 20 percent of the purchase price as a down payment.

Asked if Istithmar executives felt they got their money's worth amid a rising interest rate environment and heightened talk about a global real estate property bubble, David Jackson, executive vice president of investments at Istithmar, said "I think we did (get a good deal)."

Jackson added that he does not plan to resell the property immediately, or "flip" it, although he has gotten offers from other investors to buy the building. "We intend to hold it for a while," he said, but would not define just how long Istithmar would keep the property.

This is Istithmar's first investment in the U.S. commercial property market. The firm recently purchased a site in London's Trafalgar Square and it has looked at properties in Paris. But the Paris commercial real estate market is very expensive, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Istithmar, said in an interview.

Bin Sulayem said he expects his firm to look at other commercial property markets in the United States, among them Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles.

This year has been a very active year for Manhattan property deals.

Earlier this year, 200 Park Avenue -- known as the MetLife Building and a property that sits next to 230 Park Avenue -- was sold for $1.72 billion. That MetLife building purchase was the largest single building sale transaction in the history of Manhattan.

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