Oil scions sell Palm Beach mansion for $17M 

Buyer James Held, former Home Shopping Network CEO, now renovates island homes with partner, architectural commissioner Kenn Karakul

240 El Vedado Road (Google Maps, Getty)
240 El Vedado Road (Google Maps, Getty)

Henry Flagler is long gone, but Palm Beach is still an island of oil money.

The heirs of the family that once helmed Plymouth Oil Company sold their late parents’ Palm Beach mansion to a pair of retail executives turned island real estate investors for $17.1 million.

Richard C. Cowell Jr. and Christopher T. Cowell sold the house at 240 El Vedado Road to 164 Seminole Xchange LLC, a Florida entity registered to James G. Held, records show.

Held is the former CEO of Home Shopping Network. Since leaving the retail industry, he has become a prolific real estate investor with his partner, Palm Beach architectural commissioner Kenn Karakul. The pair built the 1-acre estate at 241 Jungle Road that private equity boss Rob Hayvaert flipped to designer Tom Ford for $51 million in December. 

The Cowells are sons of Richard C. Cowell, who went by Dick Cowell, and previously headed Plymouth Oil. He was a socialite in Palm Beach and New York City in his heyday, and had a brief, unsuccessful marriage to Gail Whitney, daughter of Cornelius “Sonny” Vanderbilt Whitney. 

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Marathon Oil, a corporate descendent of Standard Oil, acquired Plymouth Oil in 1962. At the time, Plymouth Oil was one of the nation’s largest and most productive independent oil companies, according to the Texas State Historical Association. According to a 1985 Sun Sentinel profile, Cowell went on to helm a British West Indies company focused on hospitality and tourism before starting a venture capital group. 

He and his third wife, Jacqueline Cowell, were members of the Bath and Tennis Club and the Everglades Club, according to the outlet. Records show death certificates were filed for both Dick and Jacqueline Cowell this week. 

The couple bought the 0.6-acre home for $2.5 million in 1995, property records show. The 7,800-square-foot mansion was built in 1993, and includes eight and a half bathrooms, according to records. 

Palm Beach’s roots also lie in the oil industry. Flagler, who established the town in the late 1800s as a vacation spot for wealthy Northeasterners, was a founder of Standard Oil. 

Palm Beach’s luxury market has seen a number of high profile sales this month. An entity linked to billionaire Thomas Peterffy bought a waterfront Palm Beach home for $25 million this week. Designer Tommy Hilfiger flipped a home for $41.4 million, just five months after buying it for $36.9 million. Last week, a hedge fund founder’s son sold his house for $14.9 million.