Billionaire Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp. is linked to the company that just bought an estate near Palm Beach for a recorded $173 million, setting a new record as the most expensive residential property ever to change hands in Florida.
The billionaire software entrepreneur used a limited liability company to buy the ocean-to-lake estate in the wealthy town of Manalapan south of Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Daily News has confirmed. That company bought the property in an off-market deal from a trust controlled by billionaire internet entrepreneur Jim Clark, according to the deed recorded Wednesday.
The deed shows Florida Realty LLC of Walnut Creek, California, purchased the compound just north of the Boynton Beach Inlet. The bulk of the estate measures 15.65 acres. Add in the slice of nearby Bird Island in the Intracoastal Waterway and the land totals 22.44 acres, according to property records.
Clark bought the estate at 2000 S. Ocean Blvd. and part of the nearby island in February 2021 for a combined price recorded at $94.37 million, although sources familiar with the transaction said more than $100 million actually changed hands in the 2021 deal. Clark’s trust sold both properties in the sale that closed June 16, sources told the Palm Beach Daily News.
Clark purchased the property from the billionaire Ziff family, which made its fortune in publishing and investments.
Forbes ranks Ellison as world’s 8th-richest person
Ellison has a net worth of $93.5 billion, according to Forbes.com. In April, Forbes ranked him as the eighth richest person in the world on its annual list of billionaires. Ellison co-founded Oracle and serves its chairman, chief technology officer and former CEO. The company, headquartered in Austin, Texas, is billed as the world’s largest database-management company.
In April 2021, a company linked to Ellison is said to have paid $80 million for an oceanfront estate on 6½ acres in the Seminole Landing community near North Palm Beach in Palm Beach County.
Ellison’s primary home is in Hawaii, according to published reports.
It’s unclear whether Ellison will keep the estate intact or ask the town for permission to subdivide the land for redevelopment.
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Historically known as Gemini, the estate is bisected by the coastal road, South Ocean Boulevard. The two sections of the main house — one facing the lake and the other, the ocean — are linked by a series of tunnels beneath the street, including one that serves as a foyer and art gallery.
With dense vegetation, the property has about 1,200 feet of beach frontage and about 1,300 feet of waterfront on the irregularly shaped side facing the Intracoastal Waterway.
Together, the main residence and several outbuildings offer nearly 85,000 square feet of living space, inside and out, with 33 bedrooms, 34 bathrooms and 13 powder rooms.
The park-like estate includes a PGA-standard golf practice area, a regulation tennis court, a half basketball court, a freshwater pond, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a boat dock, a bird sanctuary and a butterfly garden. All of the those items were in place when Clark’s trust bought the property.
Palm Beach housing crunch was Manalapan’s gain
The sale was handled on both sides by broker Lawrence Moens of Lawrence A. Moens Associates, who also represented Clark’s interests when he acquired the estate last year.
Moens also was involved in last year’s sale of the Palm Beach house that until the deal last week had held the record for the state’s most expensive residential sale. That oceanfront estate, developed on speculation on 2 acres at 535 N. County Road, changed hands for a recorded $122.7 million in February 2021.
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Manalapan has seen a higher-than-average number of sales topping $20 million since the coronavirus pandemic sent the South Florida real estate market into overdrive, with work-from-home buyers seeking havens to weather the health crisis in a tax-friendly state. As they watched the available housing inventory for waterfront estates shrink in nearby Palm Beach, house-hunters have increasingly looked south to Manalapan and its ocean-to-lake properties.
Manalapan Vice Mayor Stewart Satter, a businessman and real estate investor who has developed and sold several homes in town, described the former Clark estate as “a one-of-a-kind property” and said he wasn’t surprised it fetched such a premium price.
“We’re at the top (of the market),” Satter said. “I think this sale sort of says we’re at the top.”
Estate near Palm Beach was a ‘spur of the moment purchase’
The Wall Street Journal was the first outlet to report that a sale was in the works for the Manalapan estate. In a June 15 story, Clark told the Journal he and his wife, Kristy, were selling the property because they weren’t sending as much time in Florida as they had anticipated when they bought the estate. He described their decision to buy it last year — about a year into the coronavirus pandemic — as a “spur of the moment purchase.”
In the works:Billionaire Clark expected to sell estate near Palm Beach for about $175 million: report
The Clarks have homes in New York City and Bedford, New York.
West Palm Beach attorney Ronald Kochman of Kochman and Ziska is the trustee of the Clark-controlled trust that just sold the Manalapan estate. He also served that role when the trust bought the property last year.
Kochman declined to comment. The Clarks, Ellison and Moens could not be reached.
The front entrance to the 12-bedroom, Mediterranean-style main residence is on the lake side of the property, while the bulk of the house stands on the ocean side atop the crest of the beachfront dune, with several outbuildings nearby. Because South Ocean Boulevard is elevated, the property is screened on both sides from drivers, thanks to walls and landscaping.
The main residence is complemented by a seven-bedroom guesthouse, a pair of four-bedroom guest cottages, and a building with studios and apartments suited for guests or staff.
The residence and guesthouses feature open-air loggias, terraces, balconies and French doors to capture views and accommodate an indoor-outdoor lifestyle.
Mansion designed in the 1940s was completely rebuilt
The original house was designed in the 1940s by noted society architect Marion Sims Wyeth for the Lambert pharmaceutical family, and the estate also served at one point as a seasonal home for Loel and Gloria Guinness.
Property records from 1992 first link the estate to the Ziff family, who transformed it into a winter playground.
The house was completely rebuilt during a renovation carried out in 2002 by the family patriarch, the late William B. Ziff Jr., who died four years after the work was done. His second wife and widow, Tamsen Ann Ziff, was involved in the sale last year, and his sons — Dirk, Robert and Daniel Ziff — run the family’s investment firm.
The main house has about 62,220 square feet, including its basement level, which measures about 17,950 square feet.
The interior features abundant stone, rich millwork, a grand staircase and expansive wall space that displayed the Ziff family’s notable art collection. Ceilings have coffers, exposed beams and abundant pecky-cypress details.
The layout includes formal and informal living and dining areas, a media room, libraries, offices, a wine cellar and two elevators.
When the estate changed hands last year, the Ziff family was represented by Sotheby’s International Realty agents Cristina Condon, Todd F. Peter and Frances Peter.
Before Clark bought the estate, it had lagged for several years on the market, initially marketed privately in 2015 at $195 million. The asking price dropped several times before landing at $115 million when the estate finally changed hands last year.
While the property sat on the market, the Ziff family asked for and won approval from the Manalapan Town Commission to subdivide the estate into four ocean-to-lake lots, which could be sold separately. Officials voted unanimously in January 2020 to accept the plan, but that approval has since expired.
Clark sold two Palm Beach houses in past four years
Jim Clark co-founded Netscape, one of the first commercial web browsers, and more recently established CommandScape, a South Florida-based company focusing on high-tech building-management systems for commercial properties and large residential estates. The native Texan also was involved in the founding of WebMD and Shutterfly. Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.9 billion.
In Palm Beach, Clark was well known for restoring and expanding Il Palmetto, the landmarked ocean-to-lake estate he owned for nearly 20 years at 1500 S. Ocean Blvd. on the stretch of coastal road known to locals as Billionaires Row. Clark sold that 5.14-acre estate in 2018 in a closed-door, off-market deal in which as much as $90 million changed hands, sources have told the Palm Beach Daily News. The estate is now the home of construction and energy mogul Leo Vecellio and his wife, Kathryn.
Part of the Il Palmetto sale involved a house swap in which Clark took possession of another landmarked house at 120 Jungle Road, which he sold for a recorded $30.08 million in April 2021.
Moens handled both of the Palm Beach sales.
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Last year’s record-setting sale on North County Road involved a just-completed and furnished contemporary-style mansion sold by an ownership entity linked to its developer, Mark Pulte of Boca Raton-based Mark Timothy Inc. Moens held the listing and had an ownership stake in the house. The limited liability company that bought the property was linked to private-equity specialist Scott Shleifer, who was represented by broker Ryan Serhant of Serhant, and agent Christopher Leavitt of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
At Seminole Landing in North Palm Beach
In last year’s sale in Seminole Landing, Douglas Elliman Real Estate agent Tonja Garamella represented Ellison’s interests in the purchase of 12525 Seminole Beach Road. Elliman agents Christopher Leavitt and Ashley McIntosh had the listing for the estate, which was sold by a trust said to be linked to hedge funder Gabriel Hoffman of Acciptiter Capital Management.
None of the agents involved has commented about the Seminole Landing deal or their role in the sale of the 21,327-square-foot Tuscan-style mansion. The property faces more than 520 feet of beachfront.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Darrell Hofheinz is a USA TODAY Network of Florida journalist who writes about Palm Beach real estate in his weekly “Beyond the Hedges” column. He welcomes tips about real estate news on the island. Email [email protected], call (561) 820-3831 or tweet @PBDN_Hofheinz. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.