Casa Casuarina, the Miami Beach mansion owned by the late fashion designer Gianni Versace, has been auctioned off for $41.5 million, a significant drop from the original asking price of $125 million earlier in 2012. New York’s Nakash and Gindi families, who own the Hotel Victor next door, were the winning bidders.
The mansion, located in the trendy Miami neighborhood of South Beach, boasts ten bedrooms, eleven bathrooms, and a 54-foot long pool lined with mosaic tiles, 24-karat gold frescos, ornate statues, arched doorways, and an open air courtyard.
Donald Trump – who deployed his son, Eric Trump, to bid on his behalf at the court-ordered bankruptcy sale – bid as high as $41 million for the iconic South Beach estate, making him the back-up bidder in the unlikely event the top bidders don’t follow through on the all-cash deal.
Weeks before the auction, which was closed to the public and media, VM South Beach LLC put in a stalking-horse bid of $25 million, setting a minimum for others. The bidding Tuesday went in $500,000 increments.
A third bidder who had put up a $3 million deposit to participate in the auction – Palm Beach Polo and Country Club owner Glenn Straub – made a single bid and stopped, leaving the Hotel Victor interests and Trump to duke it out, according to Lamar P. Fisher, of Fisher Auction, which conducted the auction on the site.
Trump said it was no big deal that he didn’t get the trophy mansion. “We sort of thought it was a $25 million property,” Trump told the Miami Herald afterward in a phone call. “I thought it would be a nice little retreat, but nothing very important.”
Built in the 1930s, the home, located at 1116 Ocean Drive, was purchased by Versace in 1992. He spent $33 million expanding the property. PeterLoftin, a telecom mogul, bought the beachfront Mediterranean-style mansion in 2000 for $19 million. In addition to living there, Loftin rented the house out for events, then turned it into an exclusive private club with a $50,000 a year membership rate. Business did not exactly boom, and before long the opulent manse was hosting tours and hip-hop blowouts.
In 2010, restaurateur Barton G. Weiss turned the home into a 10-room hotel called The Villa by Barton G. Rooms start at $2,100 a night. Non-guests who want to glimpse the designer’s ornate villa can do so by booking a table at the Dining Room, where a modern European menu is served on Versace china. There’s also an afternoon tea service on weekends for $35 a person.
According to Businessweek, in Miami alone the Nakashes own three hotels on Ocean Drive: the Breakwater, the Edison, and the Victor, which is next door to the Versace mansion. The Nakash family, headed by 69-year-old patriarch Joe, runs a billion-dollar empire built on those famously tight jeans from the 1980s. Though the jeans frenzy is over, the fortune has rolled on. A Jordache factory now sews jeans for Levi’s.
“They are a business conglomerate; it runs the gamut,” says Jeffrey Davis, managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels (JLL), who worked with the Nakashes on the Edison hotel deal. “And they are smart investors. You don’t assemble a conglomerate like they have without being smart.”
The Nakashes like to buy properties in trouble, and they don’t dawdle. “If they find something they like, they move quickly on it,” says Davis. In the case of the Victor in South Beach, Jonathan Bennett, director of Jordache real estate arm Nakash Holdings, learned early last year that the Victor’s owners were having trouble with the mortgage and pored over documents to find the Dutch bank that held the loan. He peppered the bank with calls week after week, and finally the bank replied, saying he had but two days to draw up a term sheet and two weeks to close the deal. They bought the property and brought in boutique hotel operator Thompson Hotels to manage it. “We got a great deal,” Bennett said last November as ShaulNakash gave his Gulfstream buddies a tour of the Victor’s penthouse, which goes for $4,000 a night.
Loftin listed the property for sale in June for $125 million with luxury real-estate brokers Jill Eber and Jill Hertzberg, who operate as The Jills Team at Coldwell Banker. He later pared the price to $100 million and then $75 million, but drew no buyers. When it was set for auction, the Jills joined Fisher Auction in marketing the property to wealthy prospects around the world.
Joe Grant, Loftin’s attorney, said late Tuesday: “It’s a somber day for him. He’s obviously attached to
the property from living there.” Grant said after all the property’s debts are paid, “he’s going to walk away with some money in his pocket.” Versace was shot to death in front of his home on July 15, 1997 at age 50 by spree killer Andrew Cunanan, who murdered at least five people in total during a three-month period, ending with his own suicide at age 27 on July 23, 1997.The Versace mansion is the second most photographed home in the United States after the White House.