Versace mansion's $41.5 million sale disappoints
So much for Miami's first $100 million sale.
The South Beach mansion, once owned by Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, was sold for $41.5 million to the mortgage holder, VM South Beach, by Fisher Auction.
The price marks a sharp fall for a house that got widespread media attention and listed last year for $125 million.
Although the listing price was later reduced to $75 million, many expected the house, called Casa Casuarina, to become the most expensive ever sold in Miami, far exceeding the record of $47 million.
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When the 19,000-square-foot estate on Ocean Drive was home to Versace, he entertained Madonna, Princess Diana and others at the house. He was shot and killed on the front steps in 1997.
The property has a mosaic-tiled pool lined in 24-karat gold, an elaborate courtyard, 10 bedrooms and 11 baths. It was marketed by the "Jills"—the Miami real-estate duo of Jill Eber and Jill Hertzberg—and was featured on NBC's "Today" and other shows.
The current owner, telecom entrepreneur Peter Loftin, bought the property in 2000 for $19 million. He placed it in Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year after a financial dispute with VM South Beach. VM's principals include the Nakash and Gindi families, both of New York.
The Nakash family, which controls Jordache Enterprises, told reporters Tuesday that they plan to combine the property with a hotel that VM owns next door and create a single large hotel. They hope to use the Versace name if the Versace family grants permission.
While some may see the sale as a sign that the white-hot Miami market is cooling, many luxury real estate brokers say Casa Casuarina had unique problems. It is in the middle of Ocean Drive, which is often mobbed with visitors, tourists and partygoers. Wealthy buyers looking for a family home in Miami would be continually assaulted by noise and crowds, brokers said.
"It's really not practical as a single-family residence," said Jorge Uribe, senior vice president of One Sotheby's International in Miami. "I don't know any clients who would want to live there even as a second or third house."
And even though it appears the buyers are going through with using the property as a business site, there are drawbacks. There are only 10 rooms—hardly enough to generate the revenue that would have justified a big acquisition price, some say.
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Ahead of the auction, some also talked about making it a members club, such as the nearby Casa Tua or Soho House. But because Casa Casuarina is much smaller, it would have trouble accommodating enough members to be profitable, Uribe said.
"The real value would be if you could tear it down and build a tower," he said. "But I don't think that would be allowed under preservation."
(UPDATED: This story was updated from the original to include more details of the buyer's plans.)
—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.