For rent: A 10,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, six-bath, home, with an Intracoastal Waterway yacht dock and heated indoor pool. Cost: $50,000 a month (in season). Landlord; billionaire Bill Gates.
The barrier island municipality already has the distinction of having the second-highest per capita income of any inhabited place in the country. Among its residents are publisher Nelson Doubleday, Scripps Florida President Richard Lerner and singer Celine Dion. Golfer Tiger Woods is building a home on the island.
Now, Gates, a founder and the president of Microsoft, listed annually among the wealthiest in the world, has picked up land on the northern end of the oceanfront island through a company run by a 25 year old who lives in the state of Washington.
Jeff Gelman, who sold his 5.2-acre home at 100 Harbor Way, at the end of a narrow mangrove-lined private road for $5 million to Justin Hance and his company Front Range Investment, said Gates is behind the July 13 hardball purchase on the property that was appraised by Martin County at $8.7 million.
Gelman said he believes Hance, whose office is in the same Kirkland, Wash., building as Gates’ private investment and holding company Cascade Investment LLC, is working for Gates or fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, Buffett is also an investor with Cascade.
Hance, a 2006 graduate of Claremont McKenna College in California who according to the college’s Web site interned at Cascade Investment, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Officials with Cascade Investment did not immediately respond to a request for comments send by e-mail Monday.
Gelman said his accountant would constantly remind him of the daily expenses of maintaining the property that included $117,000 in property taxes in 2008.
“I would have liked for them to have paid more, but it was what it was, this is a tough market,” said Gelman, who had lived in the home for five years but had already moved to new home. “I didn’t get all the money I wanted, but I got rid of it.”
Tom Turner, who brokered the deal for Waterfront Properties, couldn’t confirm that Gates is the potential buyer.
“It’s been bandied all over the place, from Gates to Buffet to Paul Allen, Gates’ original partner with Microsoft,” Turner said. “I don’t really known the answer and probably if I did I’d probably plead the fifth.”
Gelman, who has been selling real estate for two decades and considered Hance's negotiation tactics distasteful, has previously sold homes to Dion and Richard Fuld Jr., the chairman and chief executive officer of the failed Lehman Brothers.
“They were trying to take advantage of the deal,” Gelman said. “They were under contract at $5.4 (million) so they continued inspections, kept prolonging the due diligence, and finally one week before they were to close, they lowered the price from $5.4 (million) to $5 million on us. I just figured whatever, you must need this 400 grand really bad.”
First Range did not purchase the three adjoining lots owned by Gelman, two vacant parcels and one that includes a 3,515-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath home.