In the 1990s, Mr. Epstein acquired the Manhattan mansion from Mr. Wexner and bought properties around the world, including his own island in the United States Virgin Islands and an apartment in Paris.
Before Mr. Wexner bought the townhouse, it had been a longtime private school. Mr. Wexner spent years converting it into a lavish estate but never moved in. After Mr. Epstein’s arrest last year, Mr. Wexner accused him of stealing “vast sums of money” from him.
The Manhattan mansion is for sale during a pronounced decline in the luxury market. Since the end of March, only 12 townhouses listed for more than $4 million have entered contract in Manhattan, down from 40 in the same period last year, according to Donna Olshan, the president of Olshan Realty.
The most expensive townhouse to enter contract since the pandemic was a 25-foot-wide, 8,760-square-foot home on the Upper East Side last listed for $24.9 million — down from an original asking price of $38 million in 2016, she said.
When asked about the $88 million Manhattan townhouse listing price, two people familiar with the home laughed. A third scoffed.
“There’s been nothing in that price point” that is selling, said Fran Katzen, a luxury real estate agent with Douglas Elliman. Other agents pointed out the significance of $88 million, calling it a common marketing plot to lure Chinese buyers, who regard the number as lucky.
But the stigma of past ownership and a moribund market may not derail a sale.
“This is perhaps one of the best homes in all of New York,” said Paula del Nunzio, an agent with Brown Harris Stevens who specializes in townhouse sales. The sheer size and flexibility of the double-wide layout, coupled with its prime location, may be enough to attract a buyer, she said.
The most expensive townhouse sale to date in New York was the roughly $77 million sale last year of a nearby mansion on the Upper East Side once owned by Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse Magazine.