Once America’s Most Expensive Home, Miami’s Versace Mansion Fetches $41.5 Million At Auction


Morgan Brennan, Forbes Staff

Casa Casuarina, Miami Beach, FL


After sitting on the sale block for more than a year, Miami’s famed Versace Mansion has finally found a new buyer. The Ocean Drive estate, officially dubbed Casa Casuarina, fetched $41.5 million at auction on Tuesday.

The mansion, once owned by fashion designer Gianni Versace, had been shopped around to both wealthy house hunters and commercial real estate investors, offering buyers the option to use it as either a single-family residence or as a commercial venue. Representatives of the property expected it to dash sales records at auction, surpassing the record $47 million a rich Russian splashed out in 2012 for Miami’s most expensive home.

At $41.5 million, the sale may be considered a bit disappointing: afterall, it represents a 67% discount off of the lofty $125 million first asked for Casa Casuarina when it hit the sale block in June 2012. The Ocean Drive estate had also been a regular fixture on FORBES’ list of America’s most expensive homes for sale.

Still, the brokers are happy with the results. “We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to manage the sale of this iconic property,” says Lamar Fisher, chief executive of Fisher Auction Company, the Pompano Beach, Fla.-based auction house that orchestrated the sale.  “This beautifully appointed estate drew significant attention from prospective buyers from around the world.”

Ultimately, the winning bid went to VM South Beach LLC, an investor group that already held the mortgage on the property and includes Jordache jeans’ Nakash family. VM South Beach beat out  FORBES 400 billionaire Donald Trump‘s $41 million bid, according to the Miami Herald, and is expected to operate the manse as a hotel. The investor group also owns the Hotel Victor next door.

Casa Casuarina headed to auction after an onslaught of legal woes landed it in bankruptcy court earlier this summer. Fisher Auction Company handled the sale in partnership with the property’s listing agents,The Jills of Coldwell Banker Previews International.

Casa Casuarina spans 23,000 square feet of living space, tucked behind gates on Miami Beach’s bustling Ocean Drive. It was built in 1930 and the design was inspired by the Alcazar de Colon, the colonial palace where the family of Christopher Columbus once lived.

Gianni Versace bought Casa Casuarina in 1992 and spent an estimated $33 million on improvements. In 1997 he was tragically shot to death by serial killer Andrew Cunanan on the mansion’s doorstep.

After his murder, the home sat vacant until 2000 when telecom mogul Peter Loftin purchased it from Versace’s heirs for $19 million. Under Loftin’s management Casa Casuarina was restored and then leased out as a boutique hotel.

But lawsuits, unpaid property taxes and defaulted mortgage notes ultimately led to its demise, with Loftin’s Casa Casuarina LLC filing Chapter 11 earlier this year in an effort to avoid foreclosure.

Versace’s former mansion has 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and an observatory, all finished with hand-painted walls and fresco-adorned ceilings.  The grand entry is flanked by twin sweeping staircases that have since been replicated in newer projects like England’s (once foreclosed-upon) Updown Court. Outside a  mosaic-tiled courtyard leads to an opulent 54 foot-long pool lined with 24 karat gold. All of the property’s furnishings, artwork and hand-painted murals came  with the sale.

“We have said all along that this property was the Mona Lisa of real estate,” says Jill Eber, one-half of The Jills real estate duo. “This is not only the most well-known property on South Beach, but it is known world-wide for its elegance, style and attention to detail throughout every room.”


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