Loudoun developer Sal Cangiano wanted a winery, but ended up with some primo real estate at bargain prices.
The same day as the April 7 Kluge auction, Donald Trump appeared on Today and discussed whether he'd run for president and Barack Obama's birth certificate.
PHOTO BY LISA PROVENCE
At times bidding in increments of $10,000, Donald Trump won the parcels containing Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard for $6.21 million, with the remainder of the Kluge holdings going to a developer from Loudoun County in a marathon, 2 1/2-hour auction.
More than 20 people registered to bid at the April 7 absolute auction of Patricia Kluge's foreclosed-upon 901-acre spread, but ultimately it came down to two bidders: Trump through his representatives, and Sal Cangiano.
And the big loser in the bidding war seemed to be Farm Credit, which had loaned Kluge nearly $35 million, bought the vineyards for $19 million in December, and watched it go for $7.3 million today.
"What can you say?" says Farm Credit's attorney Bill Shmidheiser. "The market has spoken."
In the first round of bidding on the five tracts plus a lot that included the Kluge Estate trademarks, Cangiano was the high bidder at $4.225 million
But the bidding wars were only beginning, and anyone could offer a higher price for any or all of the parcels.
And that's when buyers started offering bids on combos of the tracts. For more than an hour, Cangiano and Trump representative Jason Greenblatt jockeyed for position in $10K increments to score the Kluge property, frequently huddling with associates and stepping outside to make phone calls.
When the bidding closed at 3:24pm, Trump bid $6.21 million for two parcels: the 129-acre tract with vineyards and the winery, and the largest 647-acre tract with vineyards, the auction pavilion, office and the carriage musuem.
Cangiano ended up with the six-acre parcel containing the Farm Shop for $420,000, a 92-acre parcel for $250,000, and a 21-acre tract for $450,000.
"We plan on using it as a vineyard," says Greenblatt about Trump's future plans for the property. "Everything he makes is super-luxury, and this wine is."
Some of the wines will keep the Kluge label, he says, but he didn't rule out the possibility that some bottles in the future will wear the Trump brand.
In paring down the parcels, ultimately Trump didn't see the Farm Shop as an essential, and another can be built– or the carriage museum can be put into tasting use, suggests Greenblatt.
Bill Moses, former Kluge Estate CEO and spouse of Patricia Kluge, attended the auction and seemed in a cheery mood, considering that the enterprise to which he's devoted the last decade was slipping from his grasp after an unsuccessful bid to derail the auction in court the day before.
"We're very pleased because we know Donald is interested in bringing back the quality and making it a world-class winery," says Moses. "We're very gratified and we hope to work with him."
Kluge and Trump are friends who go back 25 or 30 years, Moses estimates, but they haven't talked to Trump about making wine with him, says Moses.
And the lowball price for the property, appraised by the bank at $17.9 million, did little to reduce the amount Kluge and Moses still owe Farm Credit.
Cangiano has no experience in the wine biz. "I thought it would be fun," he says, and he had imagined putting his name, Salvatore Cangiano, on a wine label.
He's interested in the nearly 24,000-square-foot Albemarle House, which was foreclosed upon by Bank of America, but after the bidding, he says, "I don't know, I didn't get the vineyards."
Trump, too, is interested in Albemarle House, and he's purchased its 216-acre front yard from a trust for Kluge's son, John Kluge III. "We've been negotiating with Bank of America, but the price is still too much," says Greenblatt.
Perhaps for the author of The Art of the Deal, it's just a matter of time. There was a lot of strategy in the day's bidding, says Greenblatt.
And those $10,000 bids in a multi-million-dollar deal? Says Greenblatt, "Why overpay for something?"