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Press Release on $750 Million sale on the French Riviera


Immediate release

Contact: Sharon Simms, RE/MAX Metro  (727) 896-1800

Russian billionaire’s purchase of French villa sets new world record for most expensive home — $750 million!

Most expensive home on the market in Pinellas County is listed at $16,999,000 in Tarpon Springs

Most expensive home on the market in Hillsborough County is listed at $25,000,000 in Tampa

August 11, 2008 — The market for the average priced U.S. residence may be soft, but the über rich (especially the Russians) continue to drive prices up at the very top of the world’s luxury market.  Case in point — Villa Léopolda, one of the most historic estates on the French Côte d’Azur, is now under contract by an anonymous Russian billionaire for $750 million (€500m).  This three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar sales price sets a new record for the most expensive home sale in the world. The previous record was set earlier this year by Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, with the reported purchase of a London home for his son for an estimated $236 million. 

“While the French Villa is a fabulous property, this sale does put into perspective the value U.S. properties represent,” said Sharon Simms (www.ssimms.com ), a luxury home expert with RE/MAX Metro in St. Petersburg.  “The most expensive residences on the market locally are listed for just $16,999,000 in Tarpon Springs in Pinellas County and $25 Million in Tampa in Hillsborough County.Both of these homes have between 28,000 and 29,000 sq ft. The record residential sale in the Tampa Bay area was in May of this year, a 13,000 sq ft waterfront home in Belleair that sold for $10,250,000.

Villa Léopolda, a cream-colored, turreted mansion with two guest houses, is midway between Monaco and Nice overlooking Cap Ferrat, near Villefranche-sur-Mer.  The villa was originally built about 1902 by King Leopold II of Belgium. The grounds are regarded as among the most spectacular on the Côte d’Azur.  Fifty full-time gardeners look after 20 acres of gardens and terraces, planted with 1,200 olive, orange, lemon and cypress trees.

The property’s new owner is said to be a Russian oil oligarch but not – despite initial rumors – Roman Abramovich, the highly visible owner of Chelsea Football Club, who already owns a €100m mansion near Antibes.

According to the Nice-Matin newspaper, a contract was signed last week to transfer ownership of the villa from Lily Safra, the widow of Edmond Safra, a murdered banking billionaire.  Rumor has it that Mrs. Safra held out for months as the persistent mystery buyer kept raising his offering price.  The paper also reported that 60 villas or mansions on Cap Ferrat are now owned by wealthy Russians.  

The property has a unique history.  In 1916, King Leopold’s nephew and heir, King Albert I, turned the villa into a hospital for officers wounded during the First World War. It later passed into the hands of the Agnelli family – Fiat automotive tycoons — and became the scene in the 1960s for legendary jet-set parties attended by Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan (in his acting days) and other celebrities.

“This sale raises the bar and makes the half dozen or so $100 million U.S. properties on the market seem like bargains,” said Laurie Moore-Moore, Founder of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing (www.LuxuryHomeMarketing.com), a US-based organization which trains real estate agents who work in the luxury market and awards the international Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist designation.  “Today’s affluent are citizens of the world and the successful luxury agent must know how to reach them and what lifestyles they are seeking. It’s an exciting and active market for agents at the top.”

Sharon Simms is a member of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. She and her daughter, Tami Simms, are also trainers for the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.

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Record property sale $750 Million in Villefrance, France

A Russian billionaire just set a record for the most expensive residential property sale in the world – 500 Million Euros, which is about $750 Million. The price is always driven up when a buyer wants to buy a property that the seller doesn’t want to sell. This property in Villefrance, between Nice and Monaco on the French Riviera, a turreted Belle Epoque mansion with two guest houses sits on 20 acres of grounds and gardens. The news article today shows a photo of The Villa Leopolda.

Note that this is a record "sale", which doesn’t mean it’s the most expensive property. We don’t know the cost of the skyscraper that Mukesh Ambani is building in Mumbai, for example.

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Russian billionaire buying Trump’s Palm Beach estate

Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, is buying Trump’s mansion in Palm Beach through one of his investment companies, according to the Wall Street Journal’s article today.  The  anticipated sale, reputed to be about $100 Million, will set a record for a Palm Beach residence. The purchaser is rumored to be tearing down Trump’s 33,000 square foot mansion. Obviously the value is in the 6.5 acres with 475 feet of frontage on the Atlantic Ocean. Too bad Trump didn’t save the costs of his cosmetic renovations and sell it when the market was hotter 2 years ago. He might have sold it faster if he’d torn the house down instead of renovating it – it wouldn’t be the first time that happened in Palm Beach.

In St. Petersburg (Florida, not Russia), we’re finding that the value is often in the waterfront lot and the house is just a bonus. Here, too, homes are being purchased and torn down so that new homes that meet the buyers desires can be built there.

For information on prime waterfront teardowns, as well as desirable homes, contact The Simms Team at RE/MAX Metro.

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Billionaire buying world’s most expensive home for his son?

The Sun reports that a record contract is in the making for £117,000,000 (approximately $231,000,000.00) on Billionaire’s Row in London. Lakshmi Mittal, who already owns a home nearby, is said to be close to purchasing this home for his son. Mittal, for the record, denies being the buyer.

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Top hedge fund earners up, up, up

Isn’t it interesting that top 2007 earner, John Paulson, earned much of his $3.7 billion last year by betting that real estate loans were going to plummet. Robert Trigeaux reported in Friday’s St Petersburg Times that Alpha magazine has been publishing the top hedge fund earnings since 2002. In 2007 four other hedge fund managers earned over $1 Billion!

In the last 5 years the income needed to make the top 25 earners increased twelve-fold, from $30 Million to $360 million. Annual earnings of $200 Million didn’t even make the top 50.



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Beijing billionaire buys wine

Generally I write about record home sales, but since this involves a billionaire, I thought I’d share this tidbit from Reuters that I found on the internet this morning.

The record purchase was $500,000 for 27 bottles of red wine, including a dozen bottles of Romanee Conti 1978. If this Beijing billionaire is interested in a St. Petersburg home with a wine cellar, just let me know. I promise I won’t "sell and tell".

St Petersburg, Florida, like its namesake in Russia, has miles of waterfront – ours has warmer water and a warmer climate. We have homes and condominiums in many price ranges that have space for you and your wine.

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Billionaires vs Millionaires

Have you noticed that news about Millionaires is "Old Hat"? Now we’re keeping track of the Billionaires. What are the Billionaires buying? Where are the yachts (multiple) of the Billionaires? What are the buying trends of the Billionaires?

If you haven’t noticed, Billionaires aren’t restricted to any one country. Yes, the United States has its Billionaires, but so does Russia, and so does India. It is indeed a flat world ( read Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat 3.0). So perhaps the next step is a "Billionaire Watch".

St Petersburg hasn’t yet sold any residential real estate to Billionaires (that I know of), but we do have Russians and Indians buying, and we do have a Russian billionaire’s yacht docked here ( as well as an American billionaire’s yacht).

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Megayachts in St Petersburg

Tatoosh Docks in St PetersburgSt Petersburg Florida has long been home to a fleet of sailboats and many powerboats, large and small. Yachts are in public and private marinas, and some anchor in the harbor. We do see some megayachts tied up to watch the Grand Prix as the races go along the city streets beside the waterfront.

The Port of St. Petersburg, within walking distance of downtown (just follow the waterfront), isn’t quite deep enough to be comfortable for cruise ships, so they go in and out of Tampa. It’s certainly deep enough, though, for megayachts – and just far enough away from downtown that crowds of gawkers aren’t walking by.

Here is Tatoosh, a 301 ft megayacht owned by Paul Allen, of Microsoft fame. (He also owns a larger yacht, the 416 ft Octopus. Behind Tatoosh is Ecstasea, a 282 ft yacht owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. How did he find THIS St Petersburg? Did he come because of our city’s Russian heritage? No – the Tatoosh suggested coming here.

Wouldn’t it be great for St Pete to cater to the needs of these yachts and their owners?


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