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July 23, 2013

Versace mansion bidding starts at $25 million

Auctioneers and Realtors are casting a wide net in marketing the late Gianni Versace’s Casa Casuarina mansion on South Beach for a Sept. 17 sale.

Poolside at the former Versace mansion, dressed to the nines in the midday swelter, Coldwell Banker luxury superbroker Jill Eber was touting the 54-foot mosaic and gold-inlaid swimming spot Tuesday as part of a media extravaganza to spotlight the famed South Beach property before it is auctioned in bankruptcy proceedings Sept. 17.

“There is nothing more iconic than Casa Casuarina,” said Eber, of The Jills Team at Coldwell Banker, which is co-marketing the 10-bedroom, 11-bath oceanfront manse with Fisher Auction Co. of Pompano Beach. “What more do you want?”

Ceiling frescoes and statues galore decorate the spectacularly ornate property at 1116 Ocean Drive, which includes a 23,000-square-foot, three-story mansion — plus observatory — on a 19,000-square-foot lot. Each suite is decorated in a fantasy theme with lavish fabrics, tiles, and ceramics.

Italian designer Gianni Versace was shot to death on the steps of the estate in 1997, and tourists still flock to the scene with cameras in tow. Versace bought the property in 1992 when it was a rundown apartment complex and, according to Coldwell Banker, invested more than $33 million in expanding and upgrading the place.

The Mediterranean-style mansion, dubbed Casa Casuarina, was built in 1930, echoing the style of the Alcazar de Colon in Santo Domingo.

The current owner, Peter Loftin, put the Casa Casuarina LLC, the company that owns the property, in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings on July 1 in a bid to stave off creditors’ efforts to appoint a receiver. The parties soon afterward agreed to the auction.

Loftin bought the property for $19 million in September 2000 from the Versace estate. Until May, the property was leased by the Villa by Barton G, which operated a boutique hotel and restaurant on the site.

Lamar P. Fisher, president and CEO of the auction company, said plans call for spending $50,000 in a marketing campaign to promote the property worldwide. But already, he said, a handful of “nationally known figures and international buyers, including from Russia and South America,” have made serious inquiries.

On Tuesday, The Today Show aired a recorded interview with Eber and Fisher at the mansion. CNBC, Fox News, Reuters, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Agence France-Presse turned out for a media tour.

Bidders at the auction are required to ante up $3 million and to show the wherewithal to pay at least $40 million. The debt holder, VM South Beach LLC, has put in a stalking-horse bid of $25 million itself, setting a minimum for other bidders. The sale will include the property fully furnished.

VM South Beach LLC, which acquired the mortgage on the property in December 2011 from a German bank, WestLB, has reason to want the property: It is affiliated with the Nakash family of New York, which controls Jordache Enterprises and has an interest in the Victor Hotel next door to Casa Casuarina.

Fisher said he has worked with The Jills Team, headed by Eber and Jill Hertzberg, in another high-profile auction: The November 2011 sale of the Star Island mansion of Claudio Osorio, a flashy international executive who pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering in March.

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