Inside the battle for an Iranian princess’ Midtown mansion

Two former employees of the late Ashraf Pahlavi are locked in a legal feud over her 12K sf townhouse

29 Beekman Place and Princess Ashraf Pahlavi (Getty, Courtesy of Zillow)

June 3rd, 2020, by Eddie Small

Controlling an estimated $700 million fortune, Princess Ashraf Pahlavi fled Iran in 1978, less than a year before the fall of her twin brother the shah. The princess, who many considered the brains behind her brother’s power, spent the rest of her long life in lavish exile, with luxury properties in the United States and France.

More than 40 years after the Iranian Revolution forced her out and four years after her death, a battle is intensifying over the sale of the princess’ 12,000-square-foot Midtown mansion. It is a feud that has pitted two of her former employees against each other — revealing an inventory of the princess’ riches in the process — and continues to rage as the townhouse’s market price plummets.

The eight-story building at 29 Beekman Place — whose amenities include a wine cellar, a banquet hall and eight wood-burning fireplaces — is a few blocks from the United Nations, where the princess worked on behalf of women’s causes. CBS titan William S. Paley built the property in 1934 for his wife, Dorothy. It became the princess’ home after her brother, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was deposed. She still owned it when she died in 2016 at age 96.

Despite its prime location and storied history, attempts to sell the townhouse have been complicated by the yearslong dispute between Gholam Reza Golsorkhi, whom the princess hired in 1970 to manage her affairs, and Azadeh Nasser Azari, whom Golsorkhi hired in 1979 as a secretary. Azari eventually rose to a key position within the entity created to oversee the princess’ assets, Wansdown Properties Corporation.

29 Beekman Place (Courtesy of Zillow)

The fight over the mansion has included several court decisions and prompted Wansdown’s bankruptcy filing, which Azari claims was intended to prevent her from getting long-promised millions from the estate. It has even pulled the princess’ grandson into the mix.

The mansion returned to the market in early May, asking just under $11.5 million, a bargain compared with its initial $50 million listing in 2014. The price was also chopped in 2017, to $28 million, and at least two recent potential sales have fallen apart — one of which is still tied up in the courts. Compass broker Charlie Attias and a Rosewood Realty team led by Greg Corbin is handling the current listing.

The listing has attracted interest, according to sources with knowledge of the property, even as the coronavirus continues to decimate the Manhattan luxury market and despite buyers’ general aversion to properties with complex legal entanglements, industry experts said.

Real estate attorney Ed Mermelstein said properties like this one tend to attract buyers that he described as “bottom feeders.” They are “looking to get a great deal, so they make very lowball offers,” he said. “Unfortunately, you need a seller who’s in a position to sell at that price, which typically is not the case.”

After the revolution

Princess Pahlavi lived a famously controversial life, playing a key role in the 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and surviving a 1977 assassination attempt. Andy Warhol even painted her portrait in 1978.

After Pahlavi fled Iran, Golsorkhi continued to work for her as managing director of Wansdown. Formed in 1979 to invest and manage the princess’ assets, the company is still listed as the owner of 29 Beekman.

Golsorkhi and the princess soon hired Azari, partly because she refused to pledge allegiance to the ayatollah after the revolution. She previously worked at the Consulate General of Iran in New York.


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