Casa Casuarina, the Miami Beach mansion owned by the late fashion designer Gianni Versace, is back on the market for a whopping $100 million, down from the original asking price of $125 million earlier in 2012.
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.
The listing agent, Jill Eber of Coldwell Banker, told The Wall Street Journal that current owner Peter Loftin lowered the price “to open it up to more prospective buyers, just as Miami hits its busy selling season.”
Built in the 1930s, the home, located at 1116 Ocean Drive, was purchased by Versace in 1992. He spent $33 million expanding the property. Loftin, 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.
Though Loftin is the majority owner of the mansion, the Nakash family of Jordache jeans fame paid $15 million for the $25 million mortgage on the mansion from German bank West LB and filed to foreclose. On Jan. 4, the Nakash family was in a Miami courtroom to argue that its foreclosure on the landmark shouldn’t be thrown out. Loftin is seeking to dismiss the foreclosure while he presses his own claims in another lawsuit alleging the loan documents were flawed.
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 Shaul Nakash gave his Gulfstream buddies a tour of the Victor’s penthouse, which goes for $4,000 a night.
As for the lawsuit, the Nakashes’ Miami-based attorney, Ronald Rosengarten, says, “We will continue to pursue this case aggressively and believe we should prevail in the foreclosure of the property.” The case is set to go to trial in March.
Bennett, the Nakashes’ real estate specialist, scoffs at Loftin’s $100 million asking price. “It’s hard to believe that’s a real number,” he said and surmises that there are only two ways the foreclosure litigation plays out. “Either we get the deed because it’s cut and dry that [Loftin] is in default or we get paid back,” he says. “It’s that simple.”
The Versace mansion is the second most photographed home in the United States after the White House.
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.