Palm Beach Social Diary Autumn on Palm Beach

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At dusk on a beautiful November night, Society of the Four Arts patrons gathered on the terrace overlooking the King Library.

Palm Beach’s uneventful storm season has passed as the resort’s social-and-sport playlists get underway. The King Library’s annual benefit at the Four Arts attracted several hundred patrons. The Palm Beach Civic Association might not be holding its “Welcome Home Party” until November 30 but the group recently hosted its first major event of the season — a town hall meeting with Congressman Allen West attracting an SRO crowd despite a downpour and a scatter of chanting protesters curbside in front of the Episcopal Church. Now, if only the up-and-down real estate market can once again rival the heights of the island’s social sphere.

King fling benefits Four Arts library

The Gioconda and Joseph King Library at The Society of the Four Arts held its second annual King Fling to benefit the King Library Restoration Fund. With books becoming among the most endangered and bookstores rapidly vanishing from the landscape, the Four Arts houses a magnificent collection of more than 65,000 volumes within its landmark Italian Renaissance-styled building designed in 1938 by Maurice Fatio. The event gave supporters a preview of the season’s first weekend book sale of the season along with a wine tasting, tantalizing bites, live music and a chance to win raffle prizes from The King Library Gift Shop.

The library’s main reading room was transformed into a book bazaar as bibliophiles browsed tables filled with the institution’s “extras.”
L. to r.: The extensive library of Polly Jessup, “the grande dame of Palm Beach decorators for more than 60 years,” is part of The King Library’s special Fine and Decorative Arts collection.; Polly Jessup’s volumes are far-ranging and complement the library’s Addison Mizner collection.
Molly Charland, managing director of Libraries and Education for The Society of the Four Arts.
L. to r.: Susan Watts and Connie Wheeler Geisler. A lifelong Palm Beach resident, Connie serves as chairman of the Library Committee that facilitated the evening event. ; Peter Geisler.
Before The Four Arts was built in 1938, it held events in Joseph Riter’s Music Room at Bywater Lodge, Whitehall, and at the Everglades Club.
L. to r.: Brandy Stephenson and Katie Edwards welcome guests in the library’s front loggia where Albert Herter’s murals adorn the walls. Brandy is the Campus on the Lake events coordinator. Katie is the director of marketing and corporate development for The Society of the Four Arts. ; Lorie Graham and Lindsey White. Lorie and Lindsey assist Katie Edwards with marketing, corporate development and special events.
The book sale offered a variety of reading material, including the late Dame Celia Lipton Farris’ autobiography My Three Lives.
These books were quickly purchased, essential reading.
BB Sory and Brandy Sheffield.
Bill and Sally Soter.
L. to r.: Perry Brown.; Heather and Patrick Henry. Heather is the president of The Garden Club of Palm Beach.
L. to r.: Hal and Suzanne Howard. Mr. Howard is a former vice president and New York office director of T. Rowe Price.; Peggy Jane Blair.
Clockwise from above: Richard D’Elia; Maurice Amiel and Cynthia Van Buren. Mr. Amiel’s shop, The French Wine Merchant, is located on Palm Beach; Holly Breden and Bill Dunphy.
The Pannill Pavilion is to the right.
The fountain and plaza were donated by the late Naoma Donnelley Haggin.
A view of the Pannill Pavilion from the Haggin Plaza.
Inside the Pannill Pavilion.
L. to r.: Marty Straton serves on the Library Committee.; Juliette de Marcellus was signing her book titled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Carnegie Hall.
Pary Foroughia and Fatima Pereira.
As temperatures plunged into the 70s before the season’s first chill later that night, the moonlight added a warm glow to evening’s festivities.

Anheuser-Busch scion places waterfront estate for sale

Tarpon Cove, aerial view looking south from the Everglades Club golf course towards the ocean and waterway. Situated on a double-lot with more than 200 feet of waterfront along a protected basin, Tarpon Cove was designed by Treanor & Fatio and built in 1938 for George S. Fenton, according to the town’s building records. Later, it became the seasonal retreat for Lilly Busch Magnus Blabon’s family and her husband Philadelphia manufacturer George W. Blabon 2nd. Their daughter Diana Holt, as principal of Island Road LP, has placed the property on the market. Photo Sotheby’s International Realty.
Tarpon Cove, dining room. Listed for $11.5 million by Sotheby’s International Realty associate Cristina Condon, Tarpon Cove is on the market for the first time in more than a half century, owned for decades by scions of the St. Louis Busch brew family. Photo Sotheby’s International Realty.
Tarpon Cove, view looking south southwest towards the Intracoastal Waterway. As much as Lilly Busch Magnus Blabon was known for her many colorful parties, she was also a longtime dedicated supporter of St. Mary’s Hospital.
The end of an era! Tarpon Cove and the Archbold-Hufty house next door were among the earliest houses built on Island Road leading onto Everglades Island. In June the Frances Archbold Hufty house situated on a large single waterfront lot at 330 Island sold for $6.9 million to Milan E. A. T. LLC.

Palm Beach Civic Association’s first major event of the season hosts US Congressman Allen West

The Palm Beach Civic Association and more than 200 guests recently welcomed US Representative Allen West as the headliner for the group’s first major event of the season held at the Guild Hall of the Episcopal Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea. An SRO crowd heard Congressman West’s point of view on national and international issues. Established in 1944, the Palm Beach Civic Association is dedicated to keeping its 2,000 members informed on the issues that challenge the quality of life on Palm Beach. Bob Wright is the organization’s current CEO and chairman, J. Patterson Cooper, secretary-treasurer, and Ned Barnes, president.

Congressman Allen West delivered a PowerPoint presentation on a variety of economic and social issues.
The Guild Hall at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea is the setting for many civic events.
US Congressman Allen West, front row center, waits to be introduced.
L. to r.: Mayor Gail Coniglio introduced Congressman West.; Stan Rumbough.
David Rosow, president of the Palm Beach Town Council, and Bobbi Horwich. Mr. Rosow will be the Civic Association’s guest speaker for a members only event on November 10.
Town Council member Bill Diamond and Dr. Mas G. Massoumi.
L. to r.: Helen Nicozisis.; Fran LeMay.
L. to r.: Cynthia Van Buren.; George Bennett, politics reporter for The Palm Beach Post.
Congressman West touched on economic concerns.
Dr. Karin Bivins and Eugene S. Bivins.
L. to r.: Anne Gannon, tax collector of Palm Beach County.; Elizabeth Murphy.
Vince and Audrey Cassidy.
Wilma Mooney and M. Elizabeth Rogers.
L. to r.: William “Trey” Sned III.; Deborah Okane.
John Biondo.
The Congressman talks about “Crunch Time.”

Who’s Who

However much the bridges leading onto Palm Beach make the town appear easily accessible quite often the island is as exotic as a foreign port or planet with its own language and customs. Which is about the best answer I can give whenever someone asked me to explain why Palm Beach allows LLCs and Trusts to name only an agent of record — usually one of the three As, attorney, accountant, or architect — not an actual owner(s) when seeking any public approval from the Town Council, ARCOM, or Landmarks. Rather than disclose, as can be found required on the mainland, all actual property owner(s) with at least a five per cent interest. Otherwise, doesn’t the public disclosure process become a charade? Thus, wouldn’t be possible for one or all of the voting commissioners to have conflicts of interest while having the appearance of being oblivious to a conflict? Palm Beach’s has a long history of being a refuge for public figures, political icons and corporate titans in need of reprieve from public scrutiny, inherent most notably amidst its private club culture. And while many Palm Beachers no longer know their neighbors, shouldn’t they at least know Who’s What?

Manalapan oceanfront sold for $25.5 million

An aerial view of 820 South Ocean Boulevard, Manalapan, extending from the ocean to the waterway. Photo Premier Estate Properties.

Attorney Francis B. Brogan Jr. as trustee of a Florida Land Trust sold 820 South Ocean Boulevard in Manalapan to RJK(2007), a Delaware-based LLC, c/o 1881 Grove Avenue, Radford, Virginia for $25.5 million, according to a sequence of recorded deeds. The LLC’s address is the same as Pinnacle Pharmaceuticals where Randal J. Kirk serves as chairman of Pinnacle’s board of directors. CEO of Third Security LLC, Mr. Kirk was a founder of New River Pharmaceuticals. On October 4, auto dealer and Palm Beach resident Terry R. Taylor and his wife Cynthia Taylor deeded the property via a 30 September 2011 Florida Land Trust agreement to Mr. Brogan for $10. Pascal Liguori broker-associate at Premier Estate Properties had listed the approx. 29,000-sq.-ft palazzo for $29.9 million according to their web site; for the buyer, Cristina Condon and Susan Wright, associates with Sotheby’s International Realty. Currently in Palm Beach, Terry and Cynthia Taylor own Casa Nana at 780 South Ocean Boulevard, purchased in 2003 for $24.2 million, that has been on-and-off the market for in excess of $60 million with broker Linda A. Gary.

The at-home entertainment room, 820 South Ocean Boulevard, Manalapan. Having been initially listed for $36.9 million and on the market for three years by a company affiliated with Boca Raton telemarketer Ira Smolev, the Taylors purchased the 2.4 acre property with a 9-bedroom main house, 6-car garage, and 4-Sub-Zero refrigerators for $21.2 million in August 2008. Photo courtesy Premier Estate Properties.

Beatrice Tollman deeds Chesterfield Hotel for $6.5 million to corporate entity

According to recently recorded court documents filed by Proskauer Rose lawyers Allen J. Loeb and Mark Harris, Palm Beach-London-Capetown resident Beatrice Tollman, as principal agent for the Tollman-Hundley Court LP, deeded the Chesterfield Hotel for $6.5 million to Chesterfield Hotel Property Inc., a Delaware-based corporation. As you may recall partner Monty Hundley was jailed on a variety of federal fraud-related charges while Bea and Stanley Tollman fled to London where they successfully fought extradition back to the US (Mrs. Tollman was too infirmed to leave their Knightsbridge manse). The Tollmans eventually reached a mega-million settlement with the Feds, allowing for liens to be recorded on their various stateside residential properties including a $20 million mortgage on Southwood, their 174 Via del Lago estate.

Once known as the Vineta Hotel, yes, Howard Hughes was said to have slept there, The Chesterfield Hotel property was pursued by Donald Trump during the 1990s as a possible lodging adjunct to The Mar-a-Lago Club.
The Chesterfield Hotel is a designated local landmark at 363 Cocoanut Row. Known for his red carnation boutonnieres, signature cigar, and Vegas-style parties, during the 1990s Stan Tollman, along with his partner and convicted felon accountant Monty Hundley, parleyed a chain of Days Inn motels into multi-million windfalls until federal authorities uncovered sizeable offshore bank accounts.

Tax time

Membership in Palm Beach’s most exclusive club of residential owners who pay more than $1 million in property taxes has dwindled to only two prospective members, according to the projected 2012 property appraiser’s records. Coincidentally, the two most fortunate are next door neighbors — Nelson Peltz and County Road LLC, often reported as Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev. In past years, they were joined by other boldfaced corporate titans who have seen their appraised values shrink considerably. Rybolovlev’s $95 million Maison de L’Amitie has an appraised market value of $56 million with a $1.06 million tax bill due, down from $1.4 million.

Interestingly, though I am aware of the differences between residential and commercial property evaluations, the approx. 10-acre oceanfront parcel that includes only The Breakers landmarked hotel building consisting of 540 units, restaurants, cabana club and spa has an appraised value of $151 million with a tax bill of $2.7 million, according to the property appraiser’s web site, only slightly more than the Peltz and Rybolovlev residential parcels combined. That’s what makes Palm Beach so fascinating, no?

Montsorrel, Nelson Peltz’s 13+ acre estate located at 542-548 North County Road, has a proposed appraised value of $79 million and a forthcoming property tax bill of $1.465 million, approx. $400,000 less than a previous tax bill.

Out Wellington Way

With Houston-Wellington polo patron John B. Goodman’s DUI/ Manslaughter/Leaving the scene trial slated for 2012, recently the Wilson v. Goodman civil case took a curious twist following the depositions by samurai forensic accountants. Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley ruled almost all of what was widely-believed to be Goodman’s hundreds of millions will be off limits to the jury when/if they consider awarding damages to the plaintiffs because his primary assets are actually held in trusts owned by his two children.

After reportedly paying Ron Perelman more than $70 million, or was it $90 million, for Casa Apava at 1300 South Ocean Boulevard, Billionaire’s Row builder Dwight Schar’s upcoming tax bill of $860,000 is based on a $45 million appraised value, a dip of $150,000 from Schar’s $1.08 million tax bill on a $68 million appraised value. To the north at 1236 South Ocean, John Thornton paid $77.5 million in 2008 for a property now valued at $40 million with a tax bill almost $250,000 less than a previous $1.03 million bill.

Thus, instead of being worth more than $100 million, as Mr. Goodman once claimed for a Goldman Sachs account, he may actually be worth closer to $10 million. Yes, it appears, at the moment, the kids own everything — the Wellington polo club, the 86-acre ranch, the Houston condo, as well as the biggest chunks from the reported billion-dollar sale of the Goodman family’s manufacturing interests. According to court documents, my eyes are blurred, John Goodman leases the entire operation from his children’s trusts and receives modest management/consultant fees, something like $300,000 annually.

In court documents, attorneys stated “… (Goodman) spent $2-$4 million a year playing polo at the Wellington club to support his children’s major interest in the International Polo Club” and that he “has discontinued playing polo.” Additionally, in the case of the billion + offload of the family business, Goodman’s cut was less than one per cent, only about $9 million; Mr. Goodman’s father’s net worth at the time of his death was somewhere down in the $24-$25 million range.

If the current depositions by forensic accounts hold under cross-examination and further discovery, Goodman might someday return to the polo field. That is, when/if attorney Roy Black channels his legendary courtroom abracadabra and frees him from the criminal charges. Meanwhile, Mr. Goodman may still find time to get in a few chukkers with pal John Walsh, the nation’s number one crime fighter and emcee of the television show America’s Most Wanted.

Deutsche Bank files $24 million foreclosure at 101 Casa Bendita

DB Private Wealth Management has filed an unprecedented $24 million foreclosure notice on 101 Casa Bendita, an oceanfront estate owned by New Haven/Nantucket high-flyer Robert V. “Bob” Matthews and his wife Maria “Mia” Sneden Matthews. A onetime close associate of impeached former Gov. William G. Rowland, during the past several years Matthews has accumulated a considerable amount of loan defaults in several states including several commercial venues in Palm Beach. According to the State of Connecticut Department of Revenue, Robert and Maria Matthews are the state’s leading income tax delinquents, owing $1,763,956.31 as of 30 September 2011.

101 Casa Bendita, a view from the cul-de-sac looking towards the front entrance. After acquiring the Casa Bendita property in 2002 for $7 million and building a new house on the site, Matthews deeded the property to himself and his wife from an LLC for a mortgaged amount of $14.95 million. The more than 15,000-sq.-ft “as-big-as-it-gets” Casa Bendita house is currently priced at $44 million by Lawrence A Moens Associates Inc.

Casa Bendita gazebo bulldozed

The Town of Palm Beach has demolished a gazebo associated with Casa Bendita, one of Addison Mizner’s most epic designs. The ancillary structure, however charming, was said to be placed within the street’s cul-de-sac circle following a re-plat of the estate after the demolition of the John S. Phipps’ main house. Rather than spend an estimated more than $150,000 to rehabilitate the ancillary structure and without any resident desiring to add the structure as a garden refuge for orchids or birds, the Town Council opted to tear it down.

Last looks! Views of the Casa Bendita gazebo looking northwest and looking northeast towards the ocean.

Around town

The 150 North Ocean Boulevard condominium is undergoing a pre-season structural and cosmetic makeover.
Across the street, the Sun and Surf condominium is also having a few touch-ups.
Although whiteflies continue to defoliate the island’s sacred ficus hedges despite toxic spray treatments, islanders continue to cultivate the invasive plant material.

Former Vanderbilt-Webb estate sale pending in Gulf Stream

Although the six-acre waterfront estate in Gulf Stream asking $6 million had only two owners during the past 75 years, current pending approvals will permit the construction of six new houses. On a parcel said to have been acquired by E.F. Hutton, Vanderbilt great-grand William Seward Webb Jr. and his wife Gertrude Gaynor Webb, daughter of New York City mayor William J. Gaynor, retained Palm Beach architect John Volk in 1935 to design a stately British Colonial style house directly across from Miradero, the Ocean Boulevard mansion built by Mr. Webb’s mother, Eliza Osgood “Lila” Vanderbilt Webb.

Several years earlier, Lila Webb, whose father was William H. Vanderbilt, had moved her family from Palm Beach’s North End to the more sedate enclave of Gulf Stream. Webb Jr., who died in 1956, was a founder of the real estate firm Webb and Knapp Inc. that was sold to the Zeckendorf interests. During the early 1970s, the Webb family sold the property to renowned Mid-century Modern New York furniture designer Edmond J. Spence and his wife Regina “Jean” Spence who became a well-known local philanthropist. When Mrs. Spence died in December 2010, the estate became available for redevelopment.

After the Spences acquired the property they spent two years restoring it before they moved from Boca Raton to Gulf Stream. I toured the house with the late Jane Volk many years ago after Mrs. Spence had made alterations and additions to the property. Of considerable note, in 1982 Jean Spence added a massive two-story ballroom to the house, the setting for many area fundraisers. Photo William F. Koch Real Estate.

On 17 October 2011, additional property adjacent to the Webb-Spence estate was sold when Chris D. Wheeler deeded an 8,000-sq.-ft. waterfront house at 24 Hidden Harbor Drive for $3.75 million to Joseph David Morris and his wife Jennifer Stiles Morris.

William Seward Webb Jr. and Gertrude Gaynor eloped in 1911, much to the surprise of their prominent parents. Webb’s family included a sister Frederica and brothers Vanderbilt Webb and James Watson Webb whose wife Electra Havemeyer Webb is perhaps best known as founder of the Shelburne Museum. Aerial photo & Graphic courtesy of William F. Koch Real Estate.

WPB hosts New Urbanism conference

West Palm Beach’s incomparable pastiche of buildings will provide the setting for “A New World,” the Congress of New Urbanism’s 20th annual conference in May 2012. Having reportedly only sold 30 per cent of its 420 units, The Related Company conveyed its CityPlace Tower South condominium, pictured above, by way of what was termed a “friendly foreclosure.” In 2008, the complex’s more than 300 units were deeded to a Dallas-based developer.
Located directly north of the condominiums, the 18-story CityPlace Tower office building is described as having “striking iconic architecture.” The adjacent City Place mélange of chain stores and restaurants, including a Cheesecake Factory, are currently facing foreclosure, according to numerous published reports. Rather than restore, rehabilitate or re-zone its historic midtown fabric during the late 1980s, West Palm Beach opted to demolish its unique ambiance and inject super-sized buildings.

CK CEO pays $4.5 million for 100 Regent’s Park Road

Lori and Michael Bernstein sold their 100 Regent’s Park Road house to Paul and Lynda Murry for $4.25 million according to the recently filed warranty deed. The more than 6,000-sq-ft house featuring four bedrooms was one of several neo-classical styled houses in a spec subdivision built by Clarence William Mack. Mr. Murry is president and CEO of Calvin Klein.

Regent Park, entrance feature. During the late 1950s Cleveland developer Clarence Mack planned and platted Regent Park, named for the London park called The Regent’s Park, in a residential building style quite similar to the neo-classical adaptation found at the Royal Poinciana Plaza shopping center. A onetime department store window dresser, Mr. Mack enjoyed decorating houses and tracing house designs from his book collection.
100 Regent’s Park Road has an existing appraised value of $2.1 million before selling for $4.5 million.
400 Regents Park Road, motor court. This waterfront house was owned by builder Clarence Mack’s when he died in 1982.

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