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Two South Florida estates sell for nearly $49 million

By: Eric Kalis
Published: 5/5/2011Source: Daily Business Review

South Florida’s high-end housing market is heating up with the $25.5 million sale of a Star Island mansion and the $23.1 million sale of a Palm Beach estate by a company with ties to former media magnate Conrad Black.


In what is believed to be the most expensive Miami Beach residential sale since 2006, Denver oil executive Thomas H. Morgan on Thursday sold the house at 13 Star Island for $25.5 million to Delaware corporation E&A Estates LLC.


Palm Beach attorney Charles Ratner, who represented Morgan on the sale, provided the Daily Business Review with a copy of the deed, which had not been recorded by Miami-Dade County on Friday.


Morgan confirmed the all-cash sale in a phone interview on Friday. He acquired the then-vacant 0.92-acre property for $3.75 million in 2000 and built a two-story, 15,000-square-foot mansion in 2003.


Ratner and Morgan declined to identify the principals of E&A Estates. Delaware corporate records do not identify company principals.


E&A was represented by Bermuda attorney Wendell Hollis, according to a March 18 document filed with Miami-Dade County.


Hollis declined comment.


The bayfront home has nine bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, and an in-ground swimming pool. Morgan, who has owned several condominiums and houses in Miami Beach and Coral Gables, described investing in and building high-end homes as a hobby. He said he lived in the Star Island home part time and rented it out at other times.


One of Morgan’s rental tenants was E&A, which helped facilitate the sale, he said.

Morgan initially sought $32 million for the house but was “very happy” with the final sale price.


“It never officially hit the market,” Morgan said. “I was approached by someone who wanted to purchase it several weeks before we went under contract.”


USA Commercial Residential sales agent Charles Afton represented E&A in negotiations. Afton declined to identify the E&A principals but confirmed they previously rented the home.


The E&A principals “were familiar friends of the house and enjoyed staying here,” he said. “Great waterfront houses like this are few and far between. There is an opportunity now for people to get their dream houses at realistic values.”


While 13 Star Island is considered a unique property that “is probably the nicest house in Miami-Dade County,” the sale indicates that the high-end residential market is heating up in the wake of the recession, Ratner said.


“Buyers are back in the market and increasing offers to the point of motivating sellers,” he said.


According to Ratner, the sale is the most expensive recorded transaction involving a single-family home in Miami-Dade County since developer Ugo Columbo purchased Carl Fisher’s 5020 N. Bay Road mansion in 2006. That deal, which was reported to be between $31 million and $35 million, was never recorded by Miami-Dade County.


Palm Beach Deal

In the town of Palm Beach, a company connected to Black sold a 1930 S. Ocean Blvd. mansion for $23.1 million on Tuesday, according to Palm Beach County records. Palm Beach County recorded the sale on Thursday.


Black, a Canadian who served two years in U.S. federal prison for fraud, faces a June 24 resentencing following an unsuccessful appeal of related charges.


The buyer of the five-bedroom, nine-bathroom estate is The 1930 South Ocean Boulevard Trust, with West Palm Beach attorney Maura Ziska the trustee.


Calls to Ziska were not returned.


Black paid $9.9 million for the 38-year old home in 1997.


The deal is the second-most expensive in the town in 2011, behind the $26.43 million sale on March 28 of a house at 102 Canterbury Lane known in Palm Beach as the Canterbury House. That sale was the most expensive in Palm Beach since June 2008.


Black has ties to 102 Canterbury Lane as well. The home is reputed to be the site of a 2000 meeting between Black and late media mogul Izzy Asper that resulted in Asper paying $3.1 billion for several newspapers owned by Black’s company.


The deal became known in Canada as “a Canterbury tale” because of the meeting’s location.


The media companies run by Black and Asper, who died in 2003, later filed for bankruptcy.


Broker Lawrence Moens of Lawrence A. Moens Associates handled the 1930 S. Ocean Blvd. sale. Calls to Moens were not returned.


Corcoran Group broker Paulette Koch, who with her son Dana represented the buyers, said they are Californians who most recently lived on Florida’s west coast. She declined to identify the buyers.


Koch said the town of Palm Beach market is “booming,” and expects several more residential sales exceeding $20 million in the next few months.