Versace’s former Miami Beach home up for auction
Published: July 25, 2013 11:43AM
Updated: July 25, 2013 09:55AM
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This Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2013 photo shows the shower in the Moroccan room at the Versace Mansion on Miami Beach, Fla. Though the Versace family hasn't owned the oceanfront mansion since 2000, auctioneers hope the Italian designer's legacy will attract bidders to the Miami Beach property when it goes up for auction Sept. 17. Gianni Versace was fatally shot on the mansion's stone front steps in 1997 by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Miami Beach, Fla. • Snake-haired, golden Medusa heads still glint from the gates, the swimming pool and flower pots at 1116 Ocean Drive, vestiges of the glamour fashion designer Gianni Versace brought to South Beach before his death on his own front steps.

Though the Versace family hasn’t owned the oceanfront mansion since 2000, auctioneers hope the Italian designer’s legacy will attract bidders to the Miami Beach property when it goes up for auction Sept. 17.

Serious inquiries only, please. The minimum bid is set for $25 million. To even see the property, potential buyers must sign a confidentiality agreement and prove they have the money to close a deal.

Here’s what comes with the house: a swimming pool inlaid with 24-karat gold tiles, gold-plated bathroom fixtures, high walls that block the sounds on busy Ocean Drive, panoramic views of the ocean from a rooftop observatory and mosaic flooring and frescos and murals custom-made for Versace himself.

Each room has been uniquely furnished by the current owner, and the furniture comes with the sale, including beds so large they need custom-made sheets.

Half a dozen buyers have expressed interest since the auction was announced last week, said Lamar Fisher, president and CEO of Fisher Auction Company. “They range from very, very high-profile individuals and celebrities to international buyers from the Russian market to the South American market,” Fisher said.

Their new neighbors will include thousands of tourists regularly streaming past the corner property. Many pose for pictures at its front gates, like Nicole and Daniel Francis did Tuesday.

The couple works in the fashion industry in New York City and recognized the mansion as something special, even if Versace no longer lived there.

“We’re big fashion fanatics,” Nicole Francis said. “It’s a Miami landmark.”

Fisher noted that the mansion comes with eight designated park spaces on Ocean Drive, making for a quick getaway from the tourist traffic.

“The individuals that are interested actually love the location because they can easily get to the night life of South Beach, and get right to the cruise ships where they want to go or to their yachts and also get to the airport for their private jets,” he said.

It’s been officially named Casa Casuarina for more than a decade, but the property still commonly referred to as “the Versace mansion” was initially listed for sale at $125 million last year. The asking price dropped to $100 million and then last month to $75 million.

Casa Casuarina operated as a private club and then as a boutique hotel until earlier this year. A bankruptcy court appointed Fisher Auction Company to put the property up for auction.

Versace and an entourage of celebrity friends that included Madonna, Cher and Elton John helped revive South Beach in the 1990s from a retirement community known as “God’s waiting room” to the pulsating, almost-anything-goes party hub that attracts tourists today.

The designer bought a neglected three-story, Mediterranean-style home, originally built in 1930 by Standard Oil heir Alden Freeman, and a dilapidated hotel next door in 1992 and spent $33 million on renovations. The 23,000-square-foot mansion now has 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a 54-foot-long mosaic pool lined with 24-karat gold tiles and an open-air courtyard.

Versace was fatally shot on the mansion’s stone front steps in 1997 by serial killer Andrew Cunanan, who later shot himself as a police search closed in on him. No one inside the mansion’s gates Tuesday wanted to talk about Versace’s death, except to point out that he was slain outside its doors.

“He’s everywhere here,” said Jill Eber, a Miami real estate agent working in conjunction with Fisher Auction Company on the mansion’s sale. “Versace lived here and owned it and designed it, and that’s where people are focused.”

Versace’s death wasn’t the mansion’s only link to scandal. High-profile attorney Scott Rothstein owned a share in the mansion after its 2000 sale, until federal agents seized it among his other assets in their investigation into a massive Ponzi scheme. Rothstein is now serving a 50-year prison sentence.