How much would it cost to buy out New York City?

BCG Framework McKinsey
New answer on May 26, 2020
3 Answers
Anonymous A asked on May 13, 2020


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Content Creator
replied on May 13, 2020
BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

This is a great market sizing question.

Now, I would turn to you and ask: Are you more comfortable with the top-down or the bottom-up approach here?

There is no right answer. The answer depends on how good of a grasp you have on the numbers/estiamtes required, and how comfortable you are with the logic required in each case.

In this, case a good top down might be:

  • Measure the US economy (~20 trillion).
  • Then, estimate what % of this NYC accounts for
    • Either a hard # if you know it or,
    • A state number of you know it (then a city estimate) or,
    • A "all cities" vs "rest of country" estimate, then break down further
  • Take that % and do a NPV on that recurring GDP contribution (with growth/discount factors accounted for)

A good bottom-up might be:

  • Estimate the value of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings/activity in each of the 5 buroughs and add them up

Which do you feel more comfortable with? Or, has this prompted you to think about the question another way?

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Anonymous A on May 14, 2020
Thanks for the above. However, Isn't NYC's GDP enough for the top down approach? Why should we calculate an NPV? Thank you.
Content Creator
updated an answer on May 26, 2020
Top rated MBB coach with many offers /Ex McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience/Real cases

A great question given that it is my favorite city!

One way to answer this question depends is to look at who is buying it and why. Some possible scenarios below (First 2 assume that it will continue to remain a part of the US)

1. US needs a bailout and NYC is being sold as collateral

In this case you would look at the revenues that NYC brings - easiest is to start with all the taxes it collects from businesses and make assumptions on any changes to that going forward

Then look at all the expenses (e.g., subway, debt financing, public services) and see what is absolutely essential and what may perhaps be cut

Use the above to calculate a DCF and arrive at an NPV for the city

2. NYC is up for sale to the highest bidder

Here - NPV is less relevant. You can now look at the value of NYC to various types of buyers (investors, countries, alines from outer space) from what is the highest potential bid you can have. For example if only single member states are allowed to bid vs collection of countries and if there are any exclusionary criteria (e.g. only select list of countries). A single country can afford lets say 50% of one year's GDP, many countries can afford more etc. There is no end to the permutations here

3. People of NYC are tired of being part of the US and want to form their own country

Now you have to assess the value of NYC to the country. For this you will evaluate the DCF as before but also make other assumptions - for example what is the value NYC brings as the financial capital of the world, what about the prestige and media value of NYC and may other scenarios such as loss of related taxation if US loses NYC.

Additionally - there is now a higher cost of being NYC. US can impose taxes on doing business with other states, importing food and essential resources is more costly and this raises the expenses of being an island city. It will also need the US to protect it in the case of threats which will come at an additional cost.

As you can see there are many ways to play around with this question, start with the scenario and build out a structure that makes sense



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Content Creator
replied on May 14, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


Couple comments:

  1. In these cases, is better to offer an approach and then ask for other people´s feedback; it´s more constructive.
  2. This particular market sizing is far too wide to be asked in an MBB interview



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Ian gave the best answer


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BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep
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