Trump Bids on Patricia Kluge's Virginia Estate
The latest wrinkle in Patricia Kluge's dispursal of fortune involves another famed billionaire: Donald Trump. This Wednesday, Trump had two lawyers representing him at the auction of Albemarle House, Kluge's luxe estate on 300 acres in tony Albemarle County, Va.
Shortly before the auction began, Steve Blaine and Les Goldman announced to the crowd of approximately 60 gathered in front of the Albemarle County Courthouse that they represented Donald Trump. What others might not have realized is that Trump had already purchased the adjacent 200 acres which, because of conditions outlined when Kluge gained the property in her divorce, would grant him right of first refusal on Albemare House.
"I think Mr. Trump wanted others to be aware that he was a bidder and he controlled the front yard of the house," said Baine, a Charlottesville, Va. lawyer. "He's a savvy business person but I think any other person with a serious interest in the house would have tried to figure out how to secure those 200 acres first."
Gallery: Patricia Kluge's Albemarle House
Those 200 acres, the tract of rolling hills in front of the home, at one time had a nine-hole golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. And it's not the only other piece of Kluge's pie Trump's been eyeing. According to Goldman, he's been making offers on every part of Kluge's empire including the Vineyard Estates housing development and the winery.
At wednesday's auction, Trump made the first bid at $2 million. He had some competition: A woman bidding on behalf of local developer Tom Sullivan bid several times, ultimately getting Trump's reps to rise to $3.6 million before Bank of America bidded in with $15.26 million.
The bank is owed $22.5 million on the estate, so by stepping in (and essentially buying the property from themselves at what's assumed to be an appraised value) it took a $7.24 million loss.
"Now Mr. Trump knows rather than competing with multiple potential bidders he's only competing with the bank and perhaps they can negotiate terms for buying it," says Blaine. "And that's like any other private negotiation; it's not going to be public."
The question on everyone's mind now is what does Trump want to do with the properties - a British-country-house-inspired Georgian mansion, a winery and vineyard complex, and a luxury residential development (of which Kluge and her husband William Moses are the only residents).
Goldman says it's too soon to tell. "Part of it depends on what [he] gets."
Although the home was quite gilded (as the Sotheby's auction of its decor can attest), the countryside lifestyle seems difinitively un-Trump.
Gallery: The Collection of Patricia Kluge
One possibility for reinventing Albemarle House: Transforming it into a luxury private club similar to his Mar-a-Lago on Palm Beach, built around the historic estate once home to Marjorie Merriweather Post. Though one Charlottesville insider points out that Trump may have a fight on his hands if he hopes to develop the estate. Historic preservationists are fierce in Albemarle County. After all, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and its powerful supporters are just a stone's throw away.
"Her house is on a fairly quiet country road so any plans to involve something commercial would come up against some opposition," says Hawes Spencer, editor of The Hook, a weekly newspaper in the area, whose been following the Kluge saga. He points out that Kluge had difficulty opening a small farm store on her property to sell her wine, cheeses and other goods. It was eventually allowed under a Virginia farm store law but one can guess there is not likely a Virginia luxury golf resort law to aid Trump.
Carrie Culpepper blogs about design and travel at CultureFix.wordpress.com.