What about those holes?

TO SHOW YOU how stupid I am, I thought Suffolk Construction had forgotten to finish the job when it was building Millennium Tower at Downtown Crossing. Every day last year I watched, fascinated, as the building soared higher and higher into the air. And then it seemed to be finished. Lights were coming on in the condos and people seemed to be moving in. Yet there were still holes in the sides of the building on the upper floors.

My curiosity finally got the better of me, so I called Suffolk to ask what was up with those holes in the side of the building. A spokesman for the construction company told me I would have to contact the developer about that. Thinking I must be on to something, I called Millennium Partners and finally was connected to someone who patiently explained to me that those aren’t holes, they’re indoor terraces.

Feeling pretty embarrassed at that point, I hung up and went to cover an MBTA meeting. But I kept thinking about Millennium Tower and those indoor terraces. What’s it like, I wondered, living 59 stories in the air and being able to step out onto an indoor terrace and take in the air. So that’s how the 1 percent lives, I thought to myself.

It didn’t take long before I wanted to know more. Who lived in the tower? What was it like to live there? And what impact would this building and others like it have on Boston? With those questions, the cover story in this issue began to take shape.

The biggest challenge was learning more about the people who purchased units in the building. Their deeds, on file at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds, revealed how much they paid and the size of their mortgages (most people paid cash), but little about who they are.

The owners by and large weren’t household names, at least to me. Also, a good number of them made their purchases using limited liability companies or real estate trusts that concealed their identities. Still, there were clues.

One of the penthouse units was purchased for $10.9 million by a limited liability company identified as MTPH4B LLC. In state corporation records, the manager of the LLC was listed as Marc R. Lisker of 645 Fifth Avenue in New York City. That is the address of MSD Capital, which was formed by Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, to manage his capital. Bingo: Michael Dell bought the condo.

In other instances, my analysis was based on educated guesses more than anything else. A man named Flemming Ornskov purchased a unit on the 43d floor for $4.15 million. His deed revealed little about him and he didn’t show up in state corporation records or campaign finance documents. A Google search indicated a Flemming Ornskov was the CEO of Shire Plc, a Lexington-based pharmaceutical company. My guess was that he was the buyer.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

A Delaware limited liability company named Millennium Dream LLC purchased two units for a total of $5.5 million. One unit was on the 27th floor and the other on the 28th floor. Delaware LLCs typically reveal nothing about the owner, but on the deeds the address of the purchaser was given as Tim Steinert, c/o 26th floor, Tower One, Times Square, 1 Matheson St., Hong Kong. I Googled that address and discovered it belonged to the Alibaba Group, a giant Chinese web commerce company. Steinert is the company’s general counsel. It’s unclear whether he was buying the units for himself or for the company.

As you can see, there’s an interesting story behind every purchase. The trick is getting at it.