Blaine, Goldman, the other bidder, and auctioneer Bill Lewis.
Moses and Kluge tried to build a world-class winery.
file photo by Lisa Provence
He got outbid by a bank, but the man known as "The Donald" hasn't given up his quest to buy the properties recently lost by Patricia Kluge. By placing an option on an adjacent property, New York-based real estate tycoon and reality television star Donald Trump may still scoop up all the former Kluge properties, including Albemarle House, the storied mansion that went on the auction block Wednesday morning.
Contrasted with previous auctions, the February 16 foreclosure sale was well attended, with, including media, over 60 attendees gathering in front of the Albemarle County Courthouse. Shortly before the bidding began, Charlottesville-based attorney Steve Blaine dropped his bombshell: "We represent Donald Trump."
After a few minutes of spirited back-and-forth between Trump's team and an unidentified woman– sparring in the range of $2 million to $3.6 million–- a Bank of America rep piped up with a bid of $15.26 million and won the house and the 98 acres on which it had lent $22.8 million.
After the auction ended, Blaine said that Trump has the right to buy Albemarle House by matching the bank's winning bid. The Donald won this right-of-first-refusal, Blaine said, when he recently bought an option on an adjacent tract held in trust for Kluge's son.
Albemarle County property records show that the John W. Kluge Jr. trust holds 217 acres, the mansion's former golf course, along with a 1,120-square-foot house, at 167 Albemarle House Drive. The property is tax assessed at $373,400.
According to Blaine's fellow lawyer pursuing the Trump purchase, Les Goldman, Trump has made offers on all the Kluge properties. After a series of financial setbacks, two other Kluge properties have hit the auction block in recent weeks: the Kluge Estate Vineyard & Winery as well as Vineyard Estates, a gated community where Kluge and her husband are the only dwellers. Both projects were reclaimed by their lenders.
"We'll begin working with the bank," said Goldman, although he declined to specify exactly what Trump has in mind if he can obtain the various parcels from the lenders.
"He's interested in good assets at the right price," said Goldman. "This is a specialty that Mr. Trump has."
At 23,538 square feet and comprising 8 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms, Albemarle house is one of the biggest dwellings in the county. Kluge offered it 16 months ago for at a record-setting price of $100 million before ratcheting the price down to $24 million. Designed by a former baronial mansion specialist named David Easton, the opulent neo-Georgian was completed in 1985.
"It's a very unique house," said Goldman, "but it's not everybody's cup of tea."
Standing by and watching the events proceed was a veritable who's-who of the local real estate scene. Attendees included developer Dr. Charles Hurt, real estate broker Murdoch Matheson, distressed securities investor Tom Hill, and the lawyer to the developer of the stalled Landmark hotel, Connor Crook. None of these individuals, however, placed a bid.
Another person watching the proceedings was Elizabeth Nisos. A stone mason, Nisos said that in 2006 Kluge failed to pay her $16,000 invoice– and that had Kluge treated local citizens better the community would have supported her.
"Karma's a very wicked queen," said Nisos.
A call to Kluge's husband, William Moses, however, resulted in a hearty laugh on the topic of Nisos. "She's very persistent," says Moses, alleging that there are problems with Nisos' story, that she is the subject of counterclaims, and he directed a reporter to the lawyer handling that case.
Moses also revealed that Goldman, besides representing Trump, represents Moses and Kluge as well. Which makes Goldman's parting statement to a reporter leaving the auction all the more intriguing.
"A step," said Goldman.
For anyone just jonesin to know, the bidding went like this:
Trump: $2 million
woman: $2.5 million
Trump: $2.75 million
woman: $3 million
Trump: $3.1 million
woman: $3.5 million
Trump: $3.6 million
Bank: $15.26 million
At that point, Trump's rep Goldman held up a finger and said, "I'll be right back," and went to conduct a phone call. And there the bidding ended, as no one agreed to top the value assigned by the bank, which appeared to lose nearly $8 million that day ($23 million lent minus a new value of $15.26 million).
–bidding detail added 12:45pm, Friday, February 18