Insurance execs buy Fort Lauderdale teardown for $20M

Historic mansion traded for $16.5M last year, but couldn’t be saved from rising tides

1000 Riviera Drive in Fort Lauderdale with Cryptocurrency entrepreneur Paul Prager (LinkedIn, Google Maps)
1000 Riviera Drive in Fort Lauderdale with Cryptocurrency entrepreneur Paul Prager (LinkedIn, Google Maps)

After its last owner tried and failed to save it, a historic waterfront mansion in Fort Lauderdale has been sold as a teardown.

Cryptocurrency entrepreneur Paul Prager sold the property at 1000 Riviera Drive for $19.5 million to a Florida LLC managed by brothers Seth and Brad Cohen, co-chairs of Deerfield Beach-based insurance company Insurance Care Direct, records show.

The nearly 9,700-square-foot mansion dates to the 1930’s and was originally built for the Busch brewing dynasty. It was designed for then-Anheuser-Busch president Adolphus Busch III by Francis Abreu, the Cuban-born architect behind local landmarks the Dania Beach Hotel, the original clubhouse of Fort Lauderdale Country Club, and Casino Pool, all of which have been demolished.

Prager, who founded the crypto mining company TeraWulf, bought the eight-bedroom mansion in June of last year for $16.5 million and gutted its interior. According to Douglas Elliman’s Ruchel Coetzee, the listing agent, Prager planned to elevate and restore the property –– it was built too low for the current water table and king tides.

“It was too impossible and too impractical at the end of the day,” she said, adding that the property was a victim of climate change.

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Coetzee said the Cohens plan to demolish and replace the mansion, possibly with two houses. The property has 520 feet water frontage and a new seawall, according to the listing. A Giant Banyan tree, which has been on the property since the time of the Busch family, will be saved, she said.

The Cohen brothers, who were represented by Compass’ Angeline Earnest, are no strangers to the local market. In March, they sold a waterfront Fort Lauderdale lot for $13.5 million, and in July, they broke a Broward County record when they sold a new-construction mansion for $28.5 million. That mark was surpassed just weeks later by a waterfront estate that sold for $32.5 million.

While the Busch family sold the property in the 1970’s, they remain active real estate investors in the South Florida market.

Gussie Busch was a partner in one of the tri-county region’s largest hotel sales of the year, partnering with Assouline Capital to buy Red South Beach for $33 million in September.

Another heir, Robert Hermann Jr., bought a Palm Beach mansion for $11.3 million in 2018.