Frozen asset: Enniscorthy not for sale

Historic Enniscorthy farm raised eyebrows when it sold for a record-breaking $17 million in 2001, an all-time high for Albemarle County property.

Little more than a year later, the estate was in the news again when its new owner, former Tyco chief financial officer Mark Swartz, was indicted along with extravagant party thrower/former CEO Dennis Kozlowski for allegedly bilking the company of $600 million.

Since October, the two have been on trial in New York for, among other things, using $170 million in company loans to buy homes, art, and a $6,000 shower curtain for Kozlowski's New York apartment.

On December 1, a former Tyco manager testified that she took care of Kozlowski and Swartz's personal finances while on the Tyco payroll, including paying the bills for Swartz's farm and Kozlowski's yacht.

As part of an asset forfeiture action, the government has frozen $600 million of Kozlowski and Swartz's assets, including the pricey rolling hills of Enniscorthy.

"They can't divest without notifying the court," says Barbara Thompson at the Manhattan DA's office. "I'm sure they can pay bills for the farm because the court wants to maintain the assets."

The trial is expected to continue through January. If Swartz is convicted, "the court will rule on the seizures," says Thompson.

The news that Enniscorthy may fall into government hands has local realtors in a speculative frenzy.

"Everybody is falling all over themselves to list it or offer it to a client," says real estate agent Jim Bonner, who sold the then 100-acre estate for John Kluge in 1993 to John Pickett, former part-owner of the New York Islanders hockey team, for $1.6 million. Pickett subsequently picked up more land.

Bonner calls Enniscorthy, with its 1850 federal-style mansion and now nearly 1,400 acres, "a unique trophy property."

Swartz's purchase of the estate through Sea Ridge LLC hid the actual purchase price and dodged about $50,000 in transaction taxes. A reliable source pegs the price at $17 million.

As recently reported in The Hook, a challenger for highest-price bragging rights could be Chapel Springs Farm.

A 1,622-acre property in Free Union, Chapel Springs is listed for $19.5 million by broker Venable Minor, father of internet millionaire Halsey Minor. The broker did not return calls by press time to confirm ownership, but the online pictures of a brick house and a massive white horse barn resemble Burning Daylight Farm, one of the two massive Albemarle estates which the younger Minor purchased when CNet, the company he founded, was thriving.

In 2001, Enniscorthy was listed for a whopping $22 million, and Bonner admits he was "very" surprised at the amount Swartz paid for the property– and how quickly it sold.

If it goes on the market, will Enniscorthy keep its position as most expensive estate in Albemarle? "It's hard to imagine anyone would want to sell it for less," says Bonner. "The reality may be different."

As for Swartz's notoriety, "I don't think it would help," Bonner says. "I don't think that's the sort of celebrity you want. People may think he could pay anything, and the price could be inflated."

Over at Enniscorthy, farm life continues normally, according to farm manager Bob Albert. "We've been working the cows and getting them ready to breed," he says.

Asked about the last time Swartz visited his country estate, Albert replies, "Well ma'am, that's none of your business."

Swartz's continued ownership depends on whether he's convicted and whether the government seizes the property. For now, a representative from Swartz's Manhattan attorney, Charles Stillman, tells The Hook, "It's not for sale."

Enniscorthy was once a Coles family plantation.