The rumors got the snap in July, gained traction in November and broke free into the open field in January: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bündchen had dropped $9 million on an estate in Greenwich and were moving their family to town!
Even the governor weighed in to run blocking against the doubters with a tweet welcoming the power couple to Connecticut as the media buzz reached a peak. The supposed transaction has not been confirmed, but since it’s also difficult to rule out, the rumor mill churns on.
And the speculation may yet prove true. The Real Deal has parsed the rumors and the evidence, and found the most likely candidate for the new home of the Brady bunch.
Celebrities typically don’t cause much excitement in Greenwich, where locals run into Supremes diva Diana Ross at the grocery store. But the possibility of welcoming the six-time Super Bowl champion and his supermodel wife seemed to be the kind of good news that Greenwich’s high-end real estate community needed to boost the mood after home prices and sales numbers tumbled last year in the wake of federal tax changes.
Besides, Brady and Bündchen moving to town made a certain amount of sense. After all, the celebrity power couple (Tomselebrädchen?) had put their Brookline, Mass., home on the market in August and had already cut the original listing price to $33.9 million to entice buyers. And Brady was becoming a free agent in the NFL, possibly ending his two decades with the Patriots.
So for more than six months, rumors have persisted that Brady is set to touch down in Greenwich — it’s just that nobody knows quite where.
A moving target
The speculation has centered on the exclusive, gated enclave of Conyers Farm, which offers the sort of paparazzi-proofing that Brady and Bündchen might be shopping for. But as soon as the rumors got more specific, they quickly fell apart.
The prevailing rumor was that the couple paid $13.9 million in November for a 15,000-square-foot home with 10 acres on Lower Cross Road.
Wrong. While the Lower Cross property had a contract on it, the sale was pending in November and still is.
Another whisper was that Brady and Bündchen bought Ron Howard’s former house, also in Conyers Farm, though not a true Greenwich property because it’s technically across the state line in New York.
Wrong again. That property last sold in 2014 for $27.5 million. Local agents say the current owners — rumored to be Netscape co-founder Jim Clark and Victoria’s Secret model Kristy Hinze — have no plans to leave.
On the origin of specious rumors
So where did the story come from in the first place?
The opening kickoff came last July when a New York Post real estate columnist wrote that “sources” said Brady and Bündchen were shopping for houses in Greenwich and Alpine, N.J., and the rumors gained steam the following month when the couple listed their Brookline mansion.
The speculation zeroed in on Conyers Farm thanks in part to Christopher Fountain, a local real estate agent provocateur with a widely followed blog that dishes on the Greenwich real estate community.
Fountain posted a story on Nov. 1 saying that the 42-year-old quarterback was rumored to have bought the manse on Lower Cross Road. Later that day, however, one of Fountain’s readers commented that he could with 100 percent certainty say Brady had not bought that property, so Fountain quickly updated his post, saying that he gave “a confident debunking more credibility than the original rumor.”
In an interview, Fountain said he heard the rumor from four separate sources on the morning of Nov. 1, so why did he reverse course? “Rumors can be started by just one person and then repeated,” Fountain said.
To his point, at roughly the same time, other websites, including Homes of the Rich, were reporting similar rumors about a Brady-Bündchen purchase in Greenwich and did not walk them back. So a few days later, Homes of the Rich was cited as the source when mainstream media such as the Hartford Courant ran with the story.
After a holiday lull, the Tomselebrädchen-mania peaked during a two-day stretch in the middle of January.
On January 14, a high-profile morning host on Boston’s WEEI sports radio reported that Brady and Bündchen had already left the city and moved into a newly purchased Greenwich mansion. That triggered a wave of digital news alerts as other media piled on the story. But by nightfall, NBC Sports Boston shot down the WEEI report, saying Brady had not bought a home in Greenwich. The next day, WEEI said that two of its other reporters had also determined that its original report was wrong.
But state and local politicians weren’t going to let that retraction stop them from milking the Brady brouhaha for all it was worth. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont — himself a longtime Greenwich resident — sent out a tweet on Jan. 15 saying in part, “Welcome neighbor @TomBrady!” And that same day, before WEEI retracted its original report, First Selectman Fred Camillo — Greenwich’s equivalent of a mayor — was on the Boston radio station discussing the possibility of Brady moving to town.
The politicians’ enthusiastic reaction unleashed even more media coverage, and just like the metastasizing reports spawned by the November blog posts, the January frenzy fed on itself and took on a life of its own long after the initial report was retracted.
Secrets and lies
To be fair, the media maelstrom wasn’t entirely due to fast-and-loose reporting. Greenwich real estate deals involving boldface names are often shrouded in secrecy, thanks to the use of anonymous LLCs and a real estate community that is notoriously tight-lipped. The absence of concrete information creates a vacuum that only stokes baseless speculation.
And that is a problem for agents such as Sally Slater, an associate broker at Douglas Elliman who has done a lot of work in Conyers Farm. Slater says keeping her clients’ identities secret is a vital part of the service she provides. And she literally has to go the extra mile to keep her business to herself.
“When my husband and I go to a restaurant, we tend to go out of the area,” she says. “We may be talking about something and the next table over could hear.”
Still, even a skeptic has to admit there might be a kernel of truth in the Brady rumors. After all, Fountain, who is hardwired into the Greenwich real estate market, heard from four separate people on the morning of Nov. 1 that Brady and Bündchen had bought in Conyers Farm.
And there is one real estate transaction in the tax records from around Nov. 1 that comes close to fitting the descriptions of the house Brady and Bündchen were rumored to have bought.
Less than a mile away as the football flies from the rumored Lower Cross location, another Conyers Farm property is listed as having sold on Monday, Nov. 4 for $8.5 million. It shares many of the characteristics mentioned in the Brady rumors. The house has a little less than 12,400 square feet and is located on a plot of more than 10 acres. And the property, at 22 Hurlingham Drive, sits on Converse Lake directly across from Ron Howard’s former estate.
But, alas, the buyer is listed as Hurlingham Green LLC, hiding the true owner — and keeping the rumor alive.
As much as the Brady speculation has excited the media, many locals have met it with a shrug, since Greenwich is mostly Giants country, and the Patriots QB is not a particularly popular figure.
“I’d love to have him as a neighbor,” said Jayson Podber, who lives in Greenwich with his family. “We could reminisce about both of his Super Bowl losses to my G-men!”