Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

Credit default swap pioneer, failed US Senate candidate, and Palm Beach resident Jeff Greene bought the landmarked Palm Beach post office for $3.75 million. Greene plans to utilize the Royal Poinciana Way property as offices for his Florida Sunshine Investments company where he reportedly invests in “distressed properties.” Mr. Greene, who reportedly “shuns publicity,” received approvals this week for variances from the Landmarks Commission; if approved by the Town Council, he will be adding office space to the building’s east elevation while retaining the original aspects of the post office’s lobby.
Palm Beach marches on
By Augustus Mayhew

“Palm Beach has no top or bottom. How do you ever know where you stand in a place where the sky is the limit?” The New York Times, 1916.

During my “Palm Beach: A Social History” presentation at The Society of the Four Arts, I referenced the above quote in charting the town’s social dynamic but it is just as apropos of the ongoing real estate market. Does it really matter whether a billionaire paid $50 million for a house that today may bring $25 million? Or, for that matter, as some have questioned, does it matter whether someone actually paid $50 million, as might have been recorded on the warranty deed, or some other price in an unrecorded contract that only the seller and buyer are privy while their attorneys and agents are gagged by confidentiality agreements?

223 Coral Lane resident Frank J. Avellino may soon be moving.
Where dinner-party prices and teardowns are still viable, is it possible to give more than a wink-and-a-blink yawn at $20 million, $30 million, or $50 million mortgages on properties that may never again reach that market value? Clearly, what contemporaneous analysts and reporters labeled an economic boom is today being described by historians as an era of unprecedented Ponzi schemes and massive mortgage frauds.

As of March 14, more than 1,000 court filings have been recorded regarding the ongoing 589 North County Road construction case over alleged structural flaws in a new $45 million oceanfront “dream house.” Meanwhile, it appears 223 Coral Lane resident Frank J. Avellino may soon be moving. Irving Picard has filed a complaint demanding a $900 million clawback from Mr. Avellino, Bernard Madoff’s former Palm Beach neighbor, who ran Madoff’s first enterprising “feeder fund,” along with partner, the uber-philanthropic Michael Bienes. Mr. Picard claims the Avellino-Bienes partnership was key in formulating and sustaining the fraud. In addition to the federal suits, the charitable Mr. Avellino is being sued by several island residents in Nantucket Superior Court who invested in his surefire virtual bonanzas, according to press reports.

According to Sotheby’s web site, 102 Canterbury Lane is under contract, asking was $35 million. Owned by a Calgary, Canada concern, the oceanfront estate with two pools and tennis court was purchased in 1999 by the House of Canterbury Inc. for $14.5 million. According to state records, the corporate principals are Winnipeg residents Ruth M. Asper, Louise Nebbs, and Richard M. Leipsic. Villa des Cygnes, asking $19.5 million, is also under contract, according to Sotheby’s. For NYSD’s tour last fall of one of Palm Beach’s more magical Venetian-styled settings, visit Swan Song: Cathleen McFarlane at Villa des Cygnes.

NYC investors move Los Incas oceanfront for $17 million
Beverly, Massachusetts businessman Sean Healey and his wife Kerry Murphy Healy, former Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, paid $17 million to NYC-based Milan Investments for an oceanfront house at 6 Via Los Incas. Arthur Minerof and Lawrence Genco, of Milan Investments, bought the approx. 9,700-square-foot Gottfried-built house with 125 feet of oceanfront for $14.8 million at a foreclosure auction in 2005. Kerry Healey served as Mitt Romney’s Lt. Governor from 2003 to 2007 and has also been a TV host on the New England Sports Network.
NY resident Ryan Brant pays $6.6 million for 111 El Brillo Way
Video game entrepreneur Ryan Brant, whose father Peter Brant is a notable publishing executive, has added a South End estate to his Palm Beach portfolio, paying $6.6 million for 111 El Brillo to a trust headed by Kenn Karakul with attorney Peter Broberg, trustee. In March 2007, the seller had paid $6 million for the ocean block 6,300-square-foot house and guest house. Jack Elkins, an agent with Engel & Voelkers, reportedly listed the property for $7.425 million; Paula Wittmann of Fite Shavell & Associates represented the buyer. Mr. Karakul has been engaged in several house projects in Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, along with partner James G. Held, as JPBK Properties and JPBK Holding. In 2005, Karakul and Held sold 754 South County Road for $26.95 million to a trust headed by luxury home builder Bruce Toll.
In 2008, Ryan Brant paid $6.1 million for a spec house at 231 Coral Lane. Brant, a co-founder of the Take-Two Interactive Software company that created the controversial Grand Theft Auto video, resigned from the company in 2006. The following year, Brant settled civil charges with the SEC over a “seven-year backdating stock options scheme” and paid $7.3 million in fines. He also pleaded guilty to a related criminal charge and although a four-year prison term was prescribed, he was sentenced to five years of probation as a result of his cooperation with prosecutors, according to press reports.
El Bravo Way bankruptcy auction sale reportedly on hold
252 El Bravo Way has been the setting for more than five years of contentious bankruptcy litigation, as Jeffrey and Dawn Prosser appear to be reaching the endgame. While beachgoers are charged $5 per hour for Midtown parking meters, the Prossers having lived in their Palm Beach mansion for the past three years without paying anything, according to court documents.
Jeffrey and Dawn Prosser have added another chapter to their ongoing five-year $500 +/- million Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases playing out in several courtrooms on the mainland and in St. Thomas, V.I. After 252 El Bravo was listed with a local broker for the past several months for somewhere around $8.9 million, a court-ordered auction took place on March 1 in Pittsburgh. But, no final order from the court has been issued. After building inspections showed what were believed to be structural flaws, the apparent winning buyer, PB Purchase LLC, attorney Guy Rabideau as registered agent, lowered their proposed $7.9 million offer to $6.18 million. According to local sources, the Prossers have filed another appeal, by one of their, reportedly, four law firms. According to Bank of America, the Prossers have not paid their mortgage in three years and owe the bank $5.7 million.

A recent February ruling added yet another possible chapter when a bankruptcy judge found “ ... there is no evidence to support Jeffrey Prosser’s assertion that the $5.65 purchase price of the Palm Beach house was reported as income on his and Dawn’s tax returns ... Examination of the tax returns establishes that Jeffrey Prosser did not report the $5.65 million in income.” The judge also ruled on some outstanding possessions, cars and jewelry, currently held by the Prosser children and Dawn Prosser. Stay tuned, as of last week, it appears the Prossers are still in residence.

Sutton Place residents Richard & Lisa Perry pop $11.05 million for South Ocean contemporary
NYC residents Richard and Lisa Perry paid $11 million to Edward G. Watkins for a Gottfried-built oceanfront house at 1067 South Ocean Boulevard, just north of the old Moran house. The more than 6,000-square-foot house with 145 feet of ocean frontage is one of the few true oceanfront houses between Wells Road and Billionaire’s Row. Mr. Watkins paid $2.9 million for the house when it was built on spec in 1985. Previously, it appears the Perrys had created their own micro-market at The Palm Beach Towers, acquiring: #513A for $825,000 in 2007; #514A/T7 for $1.8 million in 2004; #520A for $460,000 in 2005; #521A in 2009 for $550,000.
Outback polo patron pays $5.5M for 1300 North Ocean Boulevard
Outback Steakhouse chain co-founder and polo patron Tim Gannon paid $5.5 million for 1300 North Ocean Boulevard to the Estate of Anne Terry Pierce McBride, her husband, Wolfgang Von Falkenberg, as a personal representative, and attorney Michael Tannenbaum, as a personal representative. The 6,000+ square-foot house on nearly a half-acre includes ocean frontage across the street and was believed to be listed with Realtor Earl Hollis’ office for approx. $8.9 million. The seller purchased the property in 1994 for $2.1 million from Patricia Sousa, who had the house built in 1990, and bought an additional parcel from Sousa for $450,000 in 1997, according to the property appraiser’s records.
The late Anne McBride was the daughter of ballet buff Rebekah Pierce Harkness, the second wife of Standard Oil heir William H. Harkness. Rebekah Harkness inherited the bulk of her husband’s Standard Oil fortune when he died in 1954, just seven years after their marriage. McBride and Von Falkenberg were first married in 1982, her third, his first, and divorced in 1989.

The month before McBride died in 2005, she and Von Falkenberg were re-married; subsequently, Von Falkenberg quit-claimed the property to the McIntosh Trust, according to court documents. On 15 February 2011, the Estate of Ann McBride recorded a civil action against Mr. Von Falkenberg and the McIntosh Trust seeking “quiet title” that appears to have been settled with the closing.
The Gannon house at 1300 North Ocean Boulevard is a corner property situated on the west side of the street and includes a separate oceanfront parcel. In July 2007, Mr. Gannon paid $4.78 million for 1356 North Ocean Boulevard, an approx. 3,300-sq.-ft. house built in 1966, currently appraised for $2.9 million, according to the property appraiser’s web site. Winner of several U.S. Open polo championships, Mr. Gannon’s Outback concern is the current sponsor of 4-8-12 goal leagues at the Hobe Sound Polo Club where Gannon is a founding member and on the board of directors.
Former Madoff villa in midst of Texas-style turnaround
Construction continues at the former Bernard and Ruth Madoff winter cottage at 410 North Lake Way, now owned by the Dallas-based Bray Children’s Trust who paid $5.65 million for the karma-challenged property in October 2010. Just a few more touch-ups, then what do you think, $5.7 million? Down at 200 Algoma Road, the Peter Madoff cottage is still available.
Former Archbold plantation owner buys 130 El Brillo for $8+M
Donald Gordon and his son, Graeme John Gordon, London and Capetown residents, have sold 130 El Brillo Way to Heidelinde M. Alexandra Kauka for $8.66 million. Designed by Marion Sims Wyeth in 1925, the house features approx. 8,000-square-feet of living area. Donald Gordon bought the landmarked house in 2003 for $7.5 million. In 1982, the buyer, Heidelinde Kauka and her late husband Rolf Kauka, “the Walt Disney of Germany,” bought Chinquapin, the historic 18,000-square-foot plantation house once owned by Standard Oil heir John D. Archbold. Previously, the Kaukas were also Manalapan residents, owning the 11,000-square-foot Chateau Mer-au-Lac at 1170 South Ocean Boulevard.
Revsons buy Bahama Lane house
Martin & Eugenia Revson paid E. Rodman & Cecily Titcomb $2.8 million for 295 Bahama Lane. Built in 1973, the five bedroom multi-level corner house has approx. 4,000-sq.ft. of living area. In 2005, the Revsons paid $2.1 million for a 100 Royal Palm Way condominium.
Bank trust #2401-3159-00 pays $9.5 million for 300 El Brillo
A City National Bank trust based in Miami has paid $9.5 million for 300 El Brillo Way, a 1930's Monterey-style brick house owned by Scott C. Newquist and designed by Treanor & Fatio. Listed by Betsey Hall of Fite Shavell & Associates, the Newquists bought the house in 2002 for $7.9 million from Christopher and Leigh Larmoyeux who had purchased it three years earlier for $5.9M.
$13 million lakefront Antigua Lane property sold for $8.1 million
Several months after Wachovia Bank filed a $10+ million foreclosure notice against former Transeastern developer Edward Falcone’s property at 445 Antigua Lane, another Wachovia-affiliated holding company, NFPS Inc., was quit-claimed the property in July 2010 for $10.7 million. Now, NFPS Inc. has sold the property by a special warranty deed for $8.1 million to 416 Brazilian Avenue LLC, a company headed by Palm Beach developer David Frisbie. In 2006, Falcone paid $13 million for the property, financed with a $10 million Wachovia mortgage. Mr. Falcone (a prominent South Florida builder) and his brother serendipitously sold their company, Transeastern, to TOUSA Inc, for reportedly more than $500 million. Mr. Falcone bought Palm Beach real estate, including Casa Giraventa on Via la Selva for $7.3 million and 8 S. Lake Trail for $28.75 million. According to a published report, Mr. Frisbie plans to demolish the existing house on 173 feet of waterfront in favor of a new build. The Falcone brothers are subjects of several ongoing court actions.
Helen Cluett takes $2.2 million for Emerald Lane house
Helen S. Cluett, a Palm Beach resident since 1959, has sold her home at 217 Emerald Lane to Donald E. and Allison Gulbrandsen for $2.025 million. The Gulbrandsens are former residents of Far Hills, New Jersey.
Charlie Sheen’s former in-laws sell Alba Suite condo at Biltmore for $3.77 million
Moira Jaye Wolofsky Fiore, whose daughter Brooke Mueller is the most recent ex-Mrs. Charlie Sheen, and her husband, John Fiore, have sold Unit 116, at the Biltmore condo to billionaire Leandro Rizutto for $3.77 million. According to a recent Radar Online exclusive interview, Mr. Fiore, Mr. Sheen’s former father-in-law and a professional singer, assured readers that the Sheen-Mueller children are “well taken care of.” In 2007, Wolofsky and Fiore paid $3.6 million for the unit known as the Alba Suite. Mr. Rizutto, “the richest man in Wyoming,” is the ex-Conair founder and Cuisinart CEO who pleaded guilty in 2002 to tax evasion charges, having pocketed more than $3 million in kickbacks that were deposited in his Swiss bank account. He was sentenced to three years in prison. In 2010, Rizzuto’s Greenwich estate was listed for $19 million. In Sheridan, Wyoming, Mr. Rizzuto owns the Holy Cow Ranch. In February 2010, Rizzuto, #616 on last year’s Forbes list, paid $2.25 million for a Winthrop House condo, #610, on Worth Avenue.

Ex-Mrs. Tiger Woods pays $12.25 million for North Palm Beach oceanfront estate

Ellin Nordgren, as a principal of the Northern Lights Trust formed by her Virginia-based McGuireWoods divorce attorneys, has taken title to 12520 Seminole Beach Road, North Palm Beach, having paid Agatha Ulrich and trustees $12.250 million for an expansive oceanfront estate. The 17,000-sq.-ft. + house, positioned on more than one acre, was purchased by the seller in 2002 for $15.1 million. Four estates to the south, the Ziff family are believed to have been the purchaser of two adjacent oceanfront properties, purchased as SeaWay Acres LLC in 2009 for $22.5 million.

Photographs Augustus Mayhew

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