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North Dakota businessman spends over $50M on New York City, Fargo condos

Leland Swanson Jr. purchased his second unit in Manhattan's "Billionaire's Row" and the master condo at the top of the RDO Building in downtown Fargo.

Looking at the RDO tower in Fargo with traffic and stoplights in the foreground
North Dakota businessman Leland Swanson Jr. purchased the condo on the 17th floor of the RDO building in downtown Fargo for $6.4 million.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — The former president of Fargo-based Swanson Health Products seems to have his head in the clouds when it comes to property acquisition.

Leland Swanson Jr. has purchased a second condominium unit in a 90-story skyscraper in New York City for $39.3 million, according to a city government public records website.

The building at 157 W. 57th St. in midtown Manhattan, known as One57, overlooks Central Park along what’s called “Billionaire’s Row.”

A look at the 90 story skyscraper known as One57 in New York City
One57 is a residential skyscraper at 157 W. 57th St. in the midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City.
Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons

In 2014, Swanson bought his first condo in the luxury tower for $7.6 million and is still listed as owner of that condo, Unit 49B, which has more than 2,000 square feet of space.

About six months ago, the retired North Dakota businessman spent more than five times that amount on Unit 87, advertised on real estate websites as a residence of more than 6,200 square feet with four bedrooms and 5.5 baths.

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lee swanson.jpg
Leland Swanson Jr.
Submitted photo

Swanson’s interest in high-end real estate is also apparent in Fargo, where he’s laid claim to the top residential level — the 17th floor — of the RDO Tower downtown.

In May 2021, Swanson bought Unit 1701 at 215 Broadway N. for $6,449,506, according to James Haley, deputy Fargo city assessor.

The master condo in Fargo’s tallest building is virtually the same size as the New York City condo at 6,197 square feet, according to Fargo property records.

062322.N.FF.APARTMENT
North Dakota businessman Leland Swanson Jr. bought the condo on the 17th floor of the RDO Building in downtown Fargo for $6.4 million.
David Samson/The Forum

The city’s website lists the appraised value of Swanson’s Fargo condo at a figure substantially lower than the $6.4 million he paid.

However, Haley said the $1,990,700 appraisal is a partial valuation only, based on an appraiser’s visit in January of this year when the condo was still being framed and fitted up.

A followup visit to the condo is likely this fall or early winter, he said, for a reappraisal.

It’s not known if Swanson uses the condos as residences or strictly as investment properties. The Forum's efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Swanson has some company in owning high-end properties in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

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Cass County commissioners Rick Steen and Mary Scherling suggested they could reconsider if stronger evidence were presented.

The amount Swanson paid for the RDO Tower condo is slightly more than the $6.1 million valuation of a West Fargo mansion that's home to a co-founder of Aldevron, a biotechnology company.

Michael Chambers, who along with his business partner sold the privately held company last year for $9.6 billion, recently asked for a reduction in the tax assessed value of his home from $6.1 million to $3.4 million. The ownership of the house is registered to a limited liability company called Tevye.

Cass County commissioners rejected the reduction request on June 20, but noted they could reconsider after examining more documents.

At $6.1 million, lawyer Tami Norgard told commissioners Chambers’ home would be the highest valued home in North Dakota. A valuation is used to determine the amount of property taxes the owner pays.

Swanson earned his fortune with Swanson Health Products, founded as a mail-order vitamin and supplement company in 1969 by his father, Leland Swanson Sr., and through many other varied investments.

The company, headquartered in Fargo, is considered one of America’s largest online health product retailers, carrying more than 27,000 health and wellness products including vitamins, minerals, supplements, sports nutrition, natural food, and beauty products.

In addition to its North American base, Swanson Health serves consumers globally through online operations and distributors in 51 countries, according to media company Business Wire.

In July 2014, Swanson Health celebrated 45 years of business.

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Eighteen months later, the company announced it had been acquired by Swander Pace Capital, a private equity firm specializing in investments in consumer products companies.

Swanson Jr. retired soon after the acquisition but was said to have remained on as a consultant with the company.

Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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