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Empire State Building files for $1 billion IPO

The Malkin family bought the Empire State Building in 2002 and, after much wrangling, gained total control of the 102-story building in 2010.

Pssst. Hey, buddy! Wanna buy the Empire State Building?

It's an old joke, at least among New Yorkers, but it will soon have a bit of the ring of truth to it. Empire State Realty Trust Inc., the company that owns the iconic 102-story building on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, has filed to sell investors $1 billion worth of its Class A shares, the company said Monday in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Reuters reported that the tower, once the tallest in the world, has seen several owners over the decades and had been at the centre of a legal battle among the Malkin family, property tycoon Donald Trump and real estate heiress Leona Helmsley.

The Malkin family bought the property in 2002 and, after much wrangling, gained total control of the 102-story building in 2010.

In November, Malkin Holdings had said it would likely file to become a publicly traded real estate investment trust within three months.

Like a slew of recent tech and internet IPOs, the company will have two classes of stock -- class A share being sold to the public worth one vote and class B shares with 50 votes each. The structure gives significant control to the Malkin family.

The proceeds will be used to pay existing stakeholders in the buildings who chose to receive cash in exchange for their interests, and to repay debt.

The REIT plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "ESB."

The Empire State Building held its own in the New York commercial real estate market -- even when Lehman's bankruptcy sent rents tumbling and tenants negotiated leaner terms -- helped by the expensive renovations to its Art Deco structure.

Two years ago, the building's owners embarked on a $500 million project to bring the skyscraper, completed in 1931, to modern environmental standards.

In its filing, the company said it currently plans to invest between $175 million and $215 million of additional capital through the end of 2013, to continue to renovate and reposition its properties.

On a pro forma basis, the company generated revenue of about $156.7 million from the building, for the nine months ended September 30. In total, it earned $71 million, rebounding from lows during the financial crisis.

While large banks tend to be the high-octane fuel that drives New York commercial real estate rents, the REIT counts just one mega-bank, Citigroup , among its top 5 tenants.

The other large tenants are asset manager Legg Mason ; insurer Odyssey America Reinsurance; cosmetic company Elizabeth Arden Inc ; and financial data provider Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Reuters News.

Though the skyscraper, also known for its starring role in the movie King Kong, accounts for the largest chunk of the REIT's revenue, the company also owns 12 office properties and 6 standalone retail properties, as of September 30, mostly located in midtown Manhattan.

In its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs are underwriting the IPO.

A REIT is a real estate-linked company that can avoid paying U.S. corporate income taxes if it distributes at least 90 percent of its taxable income to shareholders.

The amount of money a company says it plans to raise in its first IPO filing is used to calculate registration fees. The final size of the IPO can be different.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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