“Life at the top” is how the penthouse at the Sherry-Netherland hotel is described in marketing materials. But the 9,000-square-foot spread is more like a gilded cage these days for Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who’s been living there in self-imposed exile since 2015.
Guo — also known as Miles Kwok — bought the full-floor apartment for nearly $70 million two years ago after leaving China amid a corruption scandal. He re-listed the 18th-floor co-op several months later for $86 million, but now a Hong Kong hedge fund has asked a New York judge to block any sale of the apartment, claiming it’s the only way it will get back money it lent to Guo in 2008, according to Forbes.
The co-op, which was pieced together out of smaller apartments over the years, has seven bedrooms and 2,000 square feet of terrace space. It’s now on the market for $78 million with Brown Harris Stevens’ Kathy Sloane, who brought Guo to the co-op two years ago.
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In court papers, the hedge fund, Pacific Alliance Asia Opportunity Fund, said that if Guo is able to sell the unit, he’s likely to move the money outside of the U.S. to avoid repaying his debts. The businessman — who fled China two years ago — has a “long history of thwarting his payment obligations — and he is setting the stage to do so once again,” the fund states in court papers. The fund, an affiliate of the $18 billion Pacific Alliance Group, slammed Guo with an $88 million lawsuit in April, claiming he defaulted on debts related to a development near Beijing’s Olympic stadium.
Joshua Shiller, an attorney for Guo, said the suit has “no merit” and Guo has filed a motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds that Manhattan isn’t the proper venue for the case.
Meanwhile, Interpol has issued an arrest notice for Guo, who has denied any wrongdoing. Instead, from his perch at the Sherry-Netherland, he has waged a social media campaign against Beijing, Forbes reported, lobbying accusations of corruption against the Chinese government as well as developers such as Soho China and HNA Group.
Ironically, the swanky residence has opened up to lawsuits in New York. Last month, he was sued for $50 million by several Chinese companies claiming they hadn’t been able to collect legal judgments against him in China. He’s also being sued for libel by a Chinese journalist, Soho China’s Chairman Pan Shiyi and HNA.
In recent court filings, Guo said he spends more time in London than New York.
Guo’s purchase here — through a corporation dubbed Genever Holdings LLC — is typical of wealthy buyers who’ve used New York real estate as their personal safety deposit boxes over the past few years. Since 2015, the U.S. Treasury Department has tried to crack on anonymous cash deals in an attempt to shut down money laundering, by requiring title insurance companies to reveal the identities of LLC buyers who pay cash for properties $3 million or more.
By E.B. Solomont