“Will & Grace” director sells NY horse farm in record-breaking deal

By Candace Taylor | March 10, 2011 10:46AM

Director Jim Burrows and the farm in Millbrook

When “Will & Grace” director Jim Burrows purchased a sprawling horse farm in Dutchess County, he cheekily named it “Willow Grace Farm” in honor of the sitcom.

“The show paid for most of the grass here,” he joked in a 2009 Elle Décor profile about the 194-acre Millbrook estate.

Now, the property may need a new name.

Last month, Burrows sold the farm for a record-breaking $15 million to legendary investor Jack Meyer, Harvard University’s longtime endowment manager, according to broker sources. The transaction closed Feb. 14, brokers said.

The sale is believed to be a new record for Millbrook, said George T. Whalen III, the owner of Millbrook-based George T. Whalen Real Estate, who was not involved in the sale.

Whalen said the next-priciest home sale he can recall is a $7.5 million deal in the early 2000s. Another property in town is rumored to have traded recently for around $18 million, brokers said, but it’s not clear if that deal has closed yet.

“These are definitely record-breaking prices,” Whalen said. “We have not seen these before.”

In the heart of horse and fox-hunting country, Millbrook is an exclusive enclave where wealthy Manhattanites have long kept country homes. Willow Grace Farm, with an 8,500-square-foot house, eight-stall barn and horse-jumping course, was listed at around $21 million with Maxwell Goodwin of Millbrook Real Estate. Pat Cortese of H.W. Guernsey Realtors represented the buyer.

Both Goodwin and Cortese declined to comment.

In addition to “Will & Grace,” Burrows directed “Friends,” “Frasier” and 11 years of “Cheers.” Most recently, he signed on to the new CBS pilot “Two Broke Girls.”

Burrows, who did not return a call for comment, lives in Los Angeles. But he told Elle Décor that he loved spending summers and fall weekends with family — including a wife and daughter who are devoted equestrians — in Millbrook.

According to the property listing, Willow Grace Farm has a six-acre Derby field created by Robert Jolicoeur, the designer of the equestrian course for the 1996 Olympics. The barn has eight stalls, a trophy room and a tack room, and two apartments on the upper floor.

When Burrows purchased the farm, he hired New York City-based architect Gil Schafer III to design a new five-bedroom residence incorporating elements from an 18th-century house that Burrows also owned. Schafer used floor boards, door hinges and beams from the older house to give the new building an historic feel, according to the listing. When the project was completed in 2007, Schafer’s firm was awarded the Palladio architecture award for the project.

Meyer, who didn’t respond to requests for comment, for 15 years ran Harvard’s endowment fund, the world’s biggest. He’s famous for the returns he earned for the fund, growing it from $4.7 billion in 1990 to $25.9 billion to 2005, when he left to form his own Boston-based fund, Convexity Capital Management.

Dutchess County has begun to recover from the real estate downturn. According to the Mid Hudson Multiple Listing Service, the average sale price of a detached single-family home in Dutchess County last month was $473,077, up 59.1 percent from $297,415 in February of 2010. (There were only 78 sales in the county last month, so the small sample size may lend itself to dramatic percentage shifts.)

Millbrook in particular has begun to strengthen, Whalen said.

During the downturn, “Millbrook fell less than other townships in our county, and we’ve bounced back better than other townships in the county,” he said.

The sudden spate of high-priced sales could have to do with a pent-up demand for trophy properties in the area.

Whalen said high-end sellers — like their Manhattan counterparts — may now be putting their homes on the market because they see sales pricing ticking up.

“It makes sense that they were waiting for the general market and the national economy to get better,” Whalen said.