UPDATED, 6:30 p.m., July 23: Italian frescoes. Moroccan mosaics. A guest bathroom outfitted for Madonna. The gold leaf lining the swimming pool.
As a longtime South Beach tourist attraction, the Versace mansion on Ocean Drive is as well known for the rumored decadence of its parties during the 1990s and celebrity guests as for its owner, fashion designer Gianni Versace, who was gunned down on his doorstep in 1997.
In recent years, the mansion, called Casa Casuarina, has gained notoriety for the number of civil and bankruptcy proceedings emanating from its ornate Mediterranean patio.
Behind the vault-like doors of the Casa, until recently leased as a Barton G. restaurant, baroque décor, sweeping marble staircases, hand-painted walls and ceilings and endless armoires bely the owner’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy July 1.
First listed for $125 million, then dropped to $75 million, an auction scheduled for Sept. 17 is a last-ditch effort to sell the mansion and clear its messy debt history.
Representatives of differing parties with varying claims on the property submitted a request to the court July 15 for an auction. The bidding would start at $25 million, and the winner, after facing court scrutiny, walks away with the unencumbered title to the property.
“There are a lot of moving parts and I think prospective buyers didn’t realize they could get clear title to the property,” the listing’s agent, Jill Eber of the broker team The Jills, told The Real Deal.
The various parties with claims on the property are compiling qualified bidders to submit to the court before carrying out the auction. About half a dozen potential bidders have come forward, including “some very well known celebrities and international buyers,” according to Lamar Fisher of Fisher Auction Co., which is arranging the sale.
Donatella Versace, the late designer’s sister, is not involved with the sale, Fisher confirmed. Since Versace was killed, various owners have shifted furniture and decorations, but Eber, a veteran Miami Beach broker, said the mansion is infused with Versace’s taste and art.
“It’s real estate’s Mona Lisa,” she said Tuesday from a Moroccan-inspired den of lavish pillows and carpets at the estate. “Every room is like a work of art. You feel Versace everywhere that you go, you see his designs, you see the fabrics, the mosaics, the stones. Everywhere you go, it’s a treasure,” she said.
Not all of the furniture is original. The double-king-size beds are said to have been brought in by the manager of the LLC that currently owns the property, telecom mogul Peter Loftin.
After defaulting on the mortgage, Loftin battled a foreclosure action by a company owned by the Nakash family, the founders of Jordache jeans.
Convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein admitted to funneling millions through his firm to acquire a 9.99 percent stake in the 19,000-square-foot property in 2009 and more to later keep the property running, wiring the money to Loftin’s Luxury Resorts LLC.
Nakash family investment vehicle VM South Beach bought a note from Loftin’s original lender, which makes them the stalking horse at the upcoming auction, and entitled to begin bidding at $32 million.
Bidders’ cutoff date to qualify is Sept. 12.