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Bernie Madoff’s Infamous Playground — Discover Who Owns the Lipstick Building


Who owns the Lipstick Building, known for its role in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme? Here’s what we know about the midtown building and who owns it.

Kathryn Underwood - Author

The Lipstick Building is recognizable for its unique shape as well as the knowledge of its role in one of the biggest financial crimes in history. It goes by various names referencing the physical address: 885 Third Avenue and 53rd at Third. Who owns the Lipstick Building today?

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A skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, the Lipstick Building, was completed in 1986. As one might expect, the name originates from the style and shape of the building, which resembles a tube of lipstick. A portion of the building was instrumental in the infamous Ponzi scheme conducted by Bernie Madoff.

Let’s explore who owns the famous building and which floor(s) Madoff orchestrated his scheme on.

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Who owns the Lipstick Building?

This iconic Manhattan skyscraper has changed hands of ownership a few times since 1986. Hines Interests was the group behind construction, having acquired the site in 1981. In 2004, Hines sold the building to Tishman Speyer, and a partial stake was then sold to Prudential Real Estate Investors.

In 2007, a new and complicated agreement was reached, giving ownership of the land site of the Lipstick Building to SL Green, while Metropolitan 885 Third Avenue LLC owned the building itself. In 2021, SL Green Realty Corp. acquired the Lipstick Building, and continues to own and manage it today.

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Where was Bernie Madoff’s office in the Lipstick Building?

Madoff, notorious fraudster who duped investors out of $65 billion in assets with a surprisingly simple Ponzi scheme, operated out of the 17th floor of the Lipstick Building. As The New York Times stated, the 17th floor served as the “epicenter.” A stock-trading operation was on the 19th floor, while the 18th floor contained computers and files for Bernie L. Madoff Investment Securities.

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When Madoff was first brought in on charges, government officials learned of the confusing nature of his so-called investment firm. Only a handful of people actually worked on the 17th floor of the Lipstick Building, but were supposedly managing around $17 billion in assets prior to his arrest.

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Architects John Burgee and Philip Johnson, who designed the Lipstick Building.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Architects John Burgee and Philip Johnson, who designed the Lipstick Building.

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Who designed the Lipstick Building?

Two primary architects designed the Lipstick Building originally: Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Gerald D. Hines was the developer on the project. The facade is made of red imperial granite and stainless steel.

The Lipstick Building is 453 feet in height, located at Third Avenue between 53rd Street and 54th Street in Midtown Manhattan. Madoff’s main office on the 17th floor was halfway to the top of the 34-story skyscraper. About 580,000 square feet of space is rentable, primarily for corporate office use.

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Who owns 885 Third Avenue?

SL Green Realty Corp, owner of 885 Third Avenue, the Lipstick Building, announced 26 new leases at the start of 2022. The total leased office space was 452,433 square feet in the first two months of that year, including two new leases at 885 Third Avenue. EC Mergers and Acquisitions and Aurora Health Network, LLC were the two newest tenants to lease within the Lipstick Building.

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Victims of Madoff gathered outside the Lipstick Building in 2010 to promote a book.
Source: Getty Images

Victims of Madoff gathered outside the Lipstick Building in 2010 to promote a book detailing how his crimes affected them.

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Why is the Lipstick Building so famous?

Besides housing hundreds of thousands of square footage of commercial office space, the Lipstick Building is famous for its role in helping Madoff cover up his fraudulent actions for years. A new Netflix documentary, Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street, sheds light on the decades-long scheme in which he stole billions from over 40,000 investors.

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Since the 17th through 19th floor of the Lipstick Building provided the setting for Madoff’s closest confidantes to run his fraudulent investment firm, that building is somewhat a symbol of financial corruption. Only a select few individuals were entrusted with what Madoff was truly doing, and a few investors like Jeffry Picower profited the most from the deception.

Netflix documentarist Jon Berlinger speculated that if not for the 2008 mortgage crisis that caused many of Madoff’s investors to cash out of his fund, his scheme could have continued “for decades.”



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