Off The Block Kluge Estate Auction Brings Nearly 350k

Off The Block Kluge Estate Auction Brings Nearly 350k

Although he died in 2010, the late billionaire John S. Kluge and his former Palm Beach estate — plus its furnishings — got plenty of attention last week.

On Monday, the Town Council gave the all-clear for the demolition of the estate’s 12,700-square-foot main residence, along with two of the other four buildings at 89 Middle Road. The approval has paved the way for the property’s new owner, seasonal Palm Beacher Peter Wood — a British insurance mogul-turned-real estate investor — to subdivide the 4-acre property for resale or redevelopment in the heart of the Estate Section.

Details about the council’s decision were reported last week in the Shiny Sheet. To date, none of the parcels — including a landmarked oceanfront house designed in 1921 by noted society architect Addison Mizner — has been listed for sale by Wood’s new broker, Christian J. Angle of Christian Angle Real Estate. Stay tuned.

On Tuesday, the majority of Kluge’s furniture and other items from the Palm Beach property generated nearly $350,000, including buyers’ fees, during an auction conducted by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in West Palm Beach. All of the items had remained in situ while the estate was on the market, a process that took nearly five years before April’s $39 million sale to Wood’s company, W-One International Group.

> PHOTOS: Items from the Kluge’s Palm Beach estate auctioned off

Like the real estate sale’s proceeds, the money from the auction will benefit Kluge’s alma mater, Columbia University, which was bequeathed the property before the late communication mogul’s death.

The auction included more than 450 lots of furniture, mirrors, chandeliers, silver, porcelain and decorative accessories, including a number of sailing-ship models. Also up for bid were outdoor furniture and decorative objects from the extensively landscaped grounds of the estate, which Kluge assembled in 1995 through several property purchases between the South Ocean Boulevard and Middle Road.

The priciest item auctioned turned out to be a Steinway & Sons baby grand piano, which sold for $23,750 against its presale estimate of between $6,000 and $8,000. Rounding out the top five was a Regency-era convex mirror, which brought $21,250; a 1963 watercolor, Autumn, by Chinese artist Lui Shou-Kwan ($10,625); a French silver flatware service by Christofle ($9,375); and a Regency rosewood center table ($5,350).

No buyer emerged, however, for the estate’s pool table. For years, it occupied a prime spot in the voluminous sun room of the main house, which was built in 1935, designed by society architect Marion Sims Wyeth and later expanded. Kluge lived there with his wife, Maria Tussi Kuttner.

Those who missed the auction will have another chance to own a piece of Kluge’s island legacy later this year when a smaller selection of higher-end items are auctioned by Christie’s in New York City. Those represent the cream of the Palm Beach crop and had been in storage for the past five years, pending the sale of the Middle Road property. The items, which include fine porcelain and silver pieces, will be auctioned as early as this fall, but details are still being finalized, a Christie’s spokeswoman confirmed this week.

Christie’s, you might recall, slammed its gavels for much of Kluge’s fine art collection several years ago.

Wood’s decision to subdivide the Kluge property, by the way, has surprised few real estate observers, who always suspected the estate would have sold more quickly had it been broken into pieces. Those same observers also wondered why its $59 million price tag was never reduced, especially given that the property ended up trading for $20 million less.

But the prevailing thought is that the agents’ hands were simply tied over the issue of subdividing and price because of how Kluge’s gift to the university had been structured and, perhaps, the value it had been assigned. And Had the unity of title been broken, who is to say that the new configuration would have met the exact desires of buyers with pockets deep enough to turn dreams into reality?

Consistently declining to discuss any of those issues, of course, were the listing agents — Carole Hogan and Carol Digges of Brown Harris Stevens and Paulette Koch and Dana Koch of theCorcoran Group. Brown Harris Stevens agent John O. Pickett III, who handled Wood’s side of the deal, also wouldn’t comment on specifics.

Discretion, after all, is as prized in Palm Beach’s real estate community as, well, a pricey bauble auctioned from a billionaire’s estate.

Gavin Lumb Headshot
Phone: 561-543-0750
Dated: July 11th 2016
Views: 167
About Gavin: Gavin is a licensed Florida Real Estate professional that has been involved in the Florida housing m...

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