Less than a month ago, a newly constructed mansion in Palm Beach, Florida made an appearance in the market. Asking price $ 140 million. A truly amazing amount. Even more stunning? The house is reportedly sold for just an amount that is being described as “close to asking”. If the house officially closes at that level, it will be the second-most expensive single-family sale in American history behind Jeff Bezos’ $ 165 million La Mansion, which was acquired in February 2020. Also, just FYI, Ken Griffin, technically the hazel manager, paid $ 238 million for five-units of a Manhattan building with the intention of converting it into a spacious apartment in January 2019. But we do not consider it a single-family residential purchase. The house that just sold in Palm Beach is a very interesting backstory dating back over 100 years. A backstory that included America’s richest man in the 1930s, former President Donald Trump, a multi-billion dollar divorce settlement, a Russian billionaire and even Jeffrey Epstein …
First, a little backstory.
A decade ago, where today’s $ 140 million mansion sits, you may have seen an unimaginably large and ornate mansion called Maison de L’Amitié (“House of Friendship”). The property had a 61,744-square-foot French Provincial-style mansion on a 150-foot sea border. The property’s tennis house was 8,200 square feet. It also had large pools and guest houses atop a lush green field that influenced a Saudi king.
Here’s what it looks like:
The original property (separate from what you see above) was created in 1917 by the successor to the financial analysis company Dun & Bradstreet. In 1930, the original owner Robert Dunn Douglas sold the house to a man named Harrison Williams. Harrison earned a fortune in electrical utilities. In 1930, Harrison had total assets of $ 680 million. Today is equivalent to about $ 10.6 billion. He was described as the richest man in America. At his peak he was easily one of the richest people in the world, excluding royalty.
Harrison died in 1953. In 1974, his widow Mona sold the property to oil magnate Charles Wrightsman and his wife Jane. Charles died in 1986. A year ago, he and Jane sold the house to Les Wexner for $ 10 million. Owner of brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Wexner earned his fortune through Retail Group, Limited. Wexner’s reputation would be tarnished decades later by his decades-long, mysterious relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein makes another appearance in this story in a moment.
Wexner then demolished the 100-year-old mansion from the ground. Three years later, in 1988, Wexner sold a partially completed new house to a man named Abe Gosman for $ 12 million.
Abe Gosman was an interesting character. He earned a fortune that, in the mid-1990s, topped $ 500 million ($ 900 million in today’s dollars). Source of his wealth? private hospital. At its peak, Abe’s company Meditrust was the largest health care real estate trust in the US with 233 facilities in 34 states.
Abe and his girlfriend Lynn Castre built the mansion in the picture above, and named it Maison de L’Amitie. Luciano Pavarotti was flown in to celebrate the completion of the mansion with 250 guests.
Unfortunately the party did not run for Mr. Gosman. Medicare cutbacks and changes in health legislation in the early 2000s destroyed their empire.
In 2001 Abe Gosman filed for bankruptcy. In his filing he listed assets of $ 250 million and liabilities of $ 233 million. In 2003 he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, at which point his most valuable asset collided with the auction block.
Enter donald trump
On January 7, 2005, Donald Trump bought Maison de L’Mitti from a bankruptcy auction for $ 41.35 million. Trump topped two other bidders. One of the losers was Jeffrey Epstein.
Trump later claimed that he performed $ 25 million worth of property upgrades and renovations. Property records would later show that they exhibited minor upgrades, including a new kitchen, some renovated bedrooms and “some minor interior changes to doors, frames and windows.”
In 2006 Donald listed the home for $ 125 million. It was the most expensive listing in American history up to that point.
Trump reduced the price to $ 120 million then $ 100 million…
Enter Dimitri Roubouvelle
In the summer of 2008, refreshed by a rising IPO and just a few months before the global real estate market collapsed to an unprecedented level, a Russian billionaire named Dmitry Ryolovlev saw the scene.
Dmitry Rybolovlev owns yet another interesting character, Maison. In the late 80s and 1990s, Dimitri was working as an emergency cardiologist in a small Russian hospital. During this time he met and married a former classmate named Elena. It will be important in a moment.
In 1992, Dimitri and Elena moved to Moscow where they established an investment company. Over the next few years he made a good fortune through intelligent investment in potassium mining. In 1995, he added his earnings to a recently privatized fertilizer company called Uralakali.
There was a slight speed-bump. In 1996, Dimitri spent 11 months in prison for the murder of a rival businessman.
After his release from prison (because the only surviving witness gave his testimony), Dimitri moved his family to Geneva, Switzerland. He developed Uralkali into Russia’s largest fertilizer manufacturer over the next decade.
In 2007, he made Uralkali public on the London Stock Exchange.
In 2010, Dimitri sold nearly half of his shares to a group of investors for $ 5.3 billion.
Let’s return to Palm Beach.
Dimitri agreed to buy Maison de L’Amitie from Trump for $ 95 million. At the time it was the most expensive residential property sale in American history. In theory, had she waited a few months or a year when most people in Florida were crosslining, Dimitri might have raised Maison de L’Amitie for a dollar to get Trump’s books.
A few months after Dimitri went shopping, his wife Elena filed for divorce because of her “serial infidelity”. He later accused Dimitri of using offshore trusts and large property acquisitions, for example a $ 100 million mansion in Florida, as a tool to hide billions of assets. In a 2011 divorce statement, Dimitri denied owning Palm Beach property.
He never spent a night at home and later claimed to have never met Donald Trump in his lifetime.
In 2014, a Geneva court ordered Dimitri to pay half of Elena $ 4.8 billion. This would be the largest divorce settlement in history up to that point. Dimitri appealed and the couple eventually reached an undisclosed amicable settlement.
In 2016, Dimitri filed a plan with Palm Beach County, which would allow him to incinerate the Maison de l’Mity and divide the property into three lots.
In 2017, a domestic builder named Mark Pulte bought one of three lots for $ 37 million. He went on to build a house that sold for just $ 140 million. Below is a video tour of the $ 140 million mansion. The buyer’s identity is not known, but the Wall Street Journal described him as a “New Yorker who moved between epidemics in Florida.”
As you see, remember, this is one of only three lots that were built from the property of the former Manson de l’Mity:
The upstairs house is 21,000 square feet. It has hardwood and stone floors, a large bar, game room, wine cellar, outdoor movie theater and a huge pool with submerged sun loungers as per its listing details.
What about the other two lots?
Good question! Just to recover quickly. In 2016, Dmitry Rybolovlev downed the Maison de l’Mity and divided the property into three lots. The lot that sold for just $ 140 million is on the left, facing the ocean.
What is the position of lot 2 and 3?
Dimitri has actually already sold them both. She sold lot # in 2016 for $ 34.3 million. He sold lots # 2 in 2019 for $ 37.3 million. In total, Dimitri sold the three lots for $ 108.6 million, paying nearly $ 13 million more than Donald Trump in 2008. Possibly a decade of demolition costs, a loss after property taxes, maintenance etc …
I couldn’t determine the owners of those two lots after a quick googling, and this article is already longer than I intended. But it was worth it, no?
And we’ll definitely update you when we learn the identity of the buyer of today’s $ 140 million mansion. My money is on Ken Griffin.