Trump sells King Kong's perch
Empire State Building, New York's tallest, sold by Donald Trump, Japanese partner for $57.5M.
March 19, 2002: 4:16 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - An investor group has agreed to buy the Empire State Building from Donald Trump and his partner for $57.5 million.

The Empire State Building Associates real estate group will buy the 102-story landmark with financing from North Fork Bank. The group, led by veteran New York real estate investor Peter Malkin, already holds a lease on the building through 2076.

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The deal marks the first time since 1961 that the same group of investors will own the skyscraper and control the long-term lease. This means the building could be sold in the future without obstructions, which could ensure better financing terms.

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ESB History

Though Trump and his partner, Japanese billionaire Hideki Yokoi, will make a reported $15 million profit on New York's tallest building, the value of the building appears to have appreciated little since construction began in 1930. The original cost of the Empire State Building (ESB), including the land, was about $40.98 million, according to the ESB's Web site. In fact, the building would have cost closer to $66 million, except that the onset of the depression cut the cost of building the structure in half.

The deal is expected to be completed next month.

Landmark of lights

The building became New York City's tallest skyscraper again after the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed by the Sept. 11 attacks, and the ESB was lit up in red, white and blue throughout the night until Thanksgiving to provide inspiration for the workers at Ground Zero.

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Tours of the building were cancelled while additional security measures were installed, but they're now back to their pre-Sept. 11 schedules with metal detectors, bag scanners, photo-identification checks and other, secret security measures in place, a building spokeswoman said.

The plot's recorded history begins in 1799, when the City of New York sold a large tract of land to a farmer named John Thompson for $2,600, according to the ESB Web site.

The site was the first home for New York's famous Waldorf Astoria hotel from 1893 until 1929, when a corporation to build the skyscraper was formed by General Motors founder John Jakob Raskob, E.I. DuPont de Nemours' then-president, Pierre S. DuPont, Coleman DuPont, former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith, Louis G. Kaufman and Ellis P. Earle. President Herbert Hoover presided over the opening ceremonies in 1931.

Lucy, Ethel as ESB-invading Martians on the  
Lucy and Ethel play Martians in a publicity stunt at the ESB to earn some cash on the "I Love Lucy" show.

The site has played host to a myriad of everyday visitors over the years, including the famous, the infamous and the fictional. The Empire State Building's observation deck was the staging area for romances between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in the movie "An Affair to Remember," which inspired characters played by Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in "Sleepless in Seattle." Lucy and Ethel of the "I Love Lucy" show once dressed up as invading Martians to make money on a publicity stunt, and in real life, the building has been visited by everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to Fidel Castro and Lassie.

--AP contributed to this story.  Top of page