REAL ESTATE

Donald Trump: I'm bidding for former Versace mansion on South Beach

 

mbrannigan@MiamiHerald.com

Is Donald Trump about to storm South Beach?

The real-estate magnate and TV reality show celebrity has made preparations to bid for the former Versace mansion when it goes on the block Tuesday at a court-ordered bankruptcy auction, according to two people familiar with the proceedings.

Trump has met the court requirements to participate in the auction of Casa Casuarina, as it is known, putting up a $3 million deposit and showing financial liquidity to pay at least $40 million for the ornate 10-bed, 11-bath Mediterranean-style estate at 1116 Ocean Drive, those people said.

On Tuesday morning, Trump confirmed his intentions.

"Yes I will be a bidder," he said. "I'll be bidding the minimum number and we'll see what happens."

Trump said he cannot be at the auction because he is in New York touring a golf project with Jack Nicklaus, but is sending his son, Eric.

The iconic 19,000-square-foot estate, which includes a mosaic-tiled, 24-karat gold-lined pool, was marketed worldwide from Dubai to Beverly Hills, including in publications as far flung as The Moscow Times and Sing Pao Daily News in Hong Kong.

But in the end, the property has drawn just three bidders, according to a person familiar with the process.

Among them is Wellington developer Glenn Straub, who owns the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club. Straub filed court papers last Friday, signaling his plans to bid.

In an interview, Straub said he is interested in buying the ornate mansion to round out the options for the super-wealthy members of Palm Beach Polo. Straub is also nearing completion of a major renovation to The Palm House, an exclusive hotel resort in Palm Beach.

If Trump were to end up with the property, it would round out the famed real estate magnate’s trophy holdings in South Florida, as well.

Trump owns Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, the former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, which he turned into a private club and spa. Last year, Trump acquired the former Doral Golf Resort out of bankruptcy proceedings and renamed it Trump National Doral. The sprawling Doral resort is in the midst of a $250 million renovation.

A third prospective bidder for Casa Casuarina is VM South Beach LLC, which acquired the mortgage on the property in December 2011 from a German bank, WestLB.

VM South Beach’s principals include the Nakash family of New York, which controls Jordache Enterprises, and Gindi Capital, controlled by the Gindi family of New York. The Nakash and Gindi interests also jointly own the Victor Hotel next door to Casa Casuarina, which gives them a strong motive in bidding.

VM South Beach LLC, has put in a stalking-horse bid of $25 million itself, setting a minimum for other bidders and can bid up to about $34 million based on what it is owed without ponying up any cash.

The sale will include the property fully furnished.

Loftin, the owner of the property, which has a rare location directly on Ocean Drive, placed the corporate entity it is held in, Casa Casuarina LLC, in Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy proceedings July 1 to stave off lien holder VM South Beach’s efforts to appoint a receiver and wrest control of the sale process from him.

Loftin, a telecom entrepreneur, bought the property in 2000 for $19 million. The property can be used as a residence or commercial business. Until May, Barton Weiss, a well known Miami restaurateur, had leased the property, operating it as The Villa By Barton G, a 10-room boutique hotel.

Luxury real estate brokers Jill Eber and Jill Hertzberg, who operate as The Jills Team at Coldwell Banker, had listed the property for sale on in June for $125 million, later knocking down the price to $100 million and $75 million with Loftin’s approval, but still got no takers.

Fashion designer Gianni Versace had purchased the property in 1992, and according to The Jills, spent $33 million in renovating it, adding a wing and making additional upgrades.

Versace was shot to death on the steps of the home in 1997 by Andrew Cunanan.

Lamar P. Fisher of Fisher Auction Co. will conduct the auction at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the mansion’s dining room. The media will not be allowed to attend, Fisher said. A press conference is set for after the sale to announce the winning bidder and price.

The parties expect to present the winning bid to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurel M. Isicoff on Wednesday for approval.

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