With the Battle of the Burches drawing to an unexpectedly civil close, scandal-watchers will have to look elsewhere for their multimillion-dollar fashion imbroglios. And we have just the thing: Casa Casuarina. On Thursday the New York Times ran a story detailing the bizarre goings-on at the Miami mansion owned by Gianni Versace. The tarnished estate has seen its fair share of insults: round-the-clock gawkers, celebrity brokers, tax evasion, and a cameo by Florida’s own disgraced Ponzi schemer. The latest affront is a massively inflated asking price, unprecedented even for Ocean Drive.
The sordid yarn started, of course, with the designer’s murder outside the gate in 1997. Three years later the Versace family sold the lavish Italianate property to telecom tycoon Peter T. Loftin for $19 million in cash. He soon took out a mortgage worth more than that for renovations, ultimately turning it into a members-only club for billionaires and celebrities, according to the Times.
Now, however, matters are escalating. Loftin wants to unload Casa Casuarina, having put it on the market in June 2012 for a jaw-dropping $150 million, before lowering it by a third in November. There’s just one problem: his mortgage is in default. The Nakash family, who owns Jordache, provided the loan. They’re furious by the listing price and would just like to foreclose, thank you very much. In December they filed a federal lawsuit against Loftin to recover $25 million in unpaid mortgage payments. Loftin has countered that the mortgage documents were fraudulent, without being more specific, and seems intent on selling.
And what of the tenant Barton G. Weiss, whose ten-suite hotel, the Villa, and restaurant are part of the grounds? His lease extends through 2020 with the option to lease it another ten years. The only thing missing from the Miami melodrama is a ghost sighting.