The largest and most important sale of note recently in Palm Beach, Florida (U.S. winter home to billionaires) is the quiet sale of Netscape co-founder James H. Clark’s South Ocean Blvd estate. It’s being reported by the Palm Beach Daily News that longtime Palm Beacher’s Kathryn and Leo A. Vecellio Jr. are the new owners of the 5 acre, ocean-to-lake estate. James Clark had listed the mega-mansion and estate up until last spring for an asking price of $95 million, much less than the jaw-dropping price tag of $137 million (and which was later reduced to $115 million). It is rumored that Clark, going through estate broker Lawrence Moens of Lawrence A. Moens Associates, received around $90 million for the property, in the off-market deal. Even so, the price range would make the Il Palmetto deal the second-highest-dollar single seller-single buyer transaction in the town’s history. And it would certainly mark the biggest-dollar residential deal in Palm Beach this year.
No one could be reached for comment on the deal as of Sunday November 18, 2018.
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Il Palmetto is on a stretch of coastal road in Palm Beach, Florida known as Billionaires Row.
According to the Palm Beach Daily News, records at the Palm Beach County Courthouse offer no details about dollar amounts or terms between Clark and the Vecellio’s, but there are clues. If you read us regularly, you will know that at Billionaire Addresses, we always follow the clues when trying to find out about billionaires property transactions and when finding the billionaires addresses to include in our mailing lists, be it new or a long hidden bungalow.
Those clues in this case are gleaned from public records and from sources who know the Vecellio’s but didn’t want to be identified.
According to PBDN, beginning last spring, courthouse filings document simultaneous transfers of ownership at Il Palmetto and of a house the Vecellio’s bought nearly five years ago at 120 Jungle Road in the Estate Section. Late last month, a mortgage recorded at just under $70 million was issued on Il Palmetto to its new ownership company.
New owner Leo A Vecellio Jr is the chairman, CEO, and owner of Vecellio Group. In December 2008 the Vecellio Group is ranked among America’s largest contractors by Engineering News-Record. The Vecellio Group is privately owned by Leo A. Vecellio, Jr., his wife, Kathryn, and sons Christopher, left, and Michael. We have included an image of their $60 million yacht below.
And most telling, on the same day the mortgage was signed, the Vecellio’s signed a 99-year lease for Il Palmetto. The length of the lease meets the criteria to let them transfer their existing homestead exemption, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office.
One real estate attorney who reviewed the documents told the Daily News that such long-term leases can be used by families for internal estate planning purposes.
Meanwhile across town on Jungle Road, Moen’s listed the main house for sale at just under $30 million last month, according to records in the Palm Beach Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.
Clark had been trying to sell the estate since at least 2016, first through Sotheby’s International Realty, who initially set the then off-market price of $137 million.
The property was last listed in January this year at $95 million by Moen’s — but by April 5, Moen’s had withdrawn his listing from the local MLS, records show.
Il Palmetto, completed in 1930 with architecture inspired by Genoa and Venice, is among the most prominent estates in Palm Beach. The town granted the house landmark status in 1980, protecting it from major alternations unless the town approves.
The property has 340 feet of beachfront east of South Ocean Boulevard, with another 360 feet on the Inter-coastal Waterway. Nearly a mile south of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Il Palmetto sits where the coastal road makes a sharp turn at Widener’s Curve. The curve is named for Philadelphia industrialist Joseph Widener, who built the house.
In all, Il Palmetto’s house and outbuildings have 68,831 square feet of living space, inside and out, according to real estate listings. Considered Swiss-born society architect Maurice Fatio’s masterpiece, the terraced property includes the six-bedroom main residence, a boat house with a two-bedroom guesthouse, and a two-bedroom beach house accessed by a tunnel under the coastal road.
Clark transferred ownership of Il Palmetto from a trust in his name to a company named Brando Woody DE LLC, a limited liability company registered in Delaware. Delaware’s strict privacy laws cloaked the identity of anyone behind that entity, although later courthouse filings show the company is managed by a West Palm Beach attorney.
Clark, who is married to Kristy Hinze-Clark, paid a recorded $11 million for the estate in 1999 and carried out a major restoration and expansion project. The Texas billionaire co-founded Netscape, one of the first commercial web browsers, and more recently created CommandScape, which offers high-tech building-management systems for commercial properties and large residential estates.
As usual, and in the Vecellios’ case, several things were done to try and hide and cover-up who was buying and selling what using LLC’s, but by following the trail, lawyers names, and transactions, the sale has now been exposed, even though the sale was started months and months ago, such as…..
“And as every real estate lawyer in Palm Beach knows, the owner of one Delaware limited liability company can sell so-called “membership-interest” shares to another Delaware limited liability company without any record of that transfer necessarily becoming public — or a price being recorded for the transaction. In effect, ownership of that company can completely change hands without any courthouse documentation.
So it’s at least conceivable that Clark sold his membership-interest shares in Brando Woody DE LLC to the Vecellio’s for an undisclosed amount. And once in control of the company, the Vecellio’s could have leased the property to themselves using the 99-year lease, with no record of any money changing hands. Brando Woody DE LLC is identified as the Vecellios’ “landlord” on the lease recorded Oct. 23.
And on the same day, the county clerk’s office recorded deeds showing simultaneous internal transactions at the Clark and the Vecellio estates.” – Palm Beach Daily News.
Read much more about the Vecellio family and their progressive purchase of Il Palmetto by buying and selling other properties to build their funds and pay the taxman, all from the article posted at the Palm Beach Daily News, here. Thank you to them for much of this story.