Your Mama has a few things to cover today but we thought we'd start at the tippy-top with the recent real estate reality check wildly rich widow Lily Safra had regarding Villa Leopolda, her behemoth Belle Epoque estate overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on the Cote d'Azure.
In December of 1999, the high priestess of international high society lost her Lebanese banking billionaire huzband Edmund in a fire that raged through their Avenue d'Ostende penthouse in the posh principality of Monaco. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, Mister Safra's American nurse Ted Maher was convicted of igniting the blaze and the Brazilian born socialite and perfectly preserved philanthropist became the sole owner of Villa Leopolda.
In addition to its manicured lawns and meticulously maintained gardens that are said to require 50 gardeners be snipping and clipping all day every day, the 50-acre estate includes an ocher colored, 29,000 square foot confectionery colossus with 11 bedrooms and 14 poopers. The expansive grounds also contain numerous out buildings–probably for storing all the rakes and lawnmowers, a commercial sized green house, a swimming pool and pool house, an outdoor kitchen, helipad, and a guest house larger than the mansions of most millionaires. Your Mama sometimes whittles away an hour or two wondering and day-dreaming about the security measures required to defend Villa Leopolda in the unlikely event an unwanted intruder manages to get up on the grounds. Are there 24/7 armed guards? Panic rooms and bomb shelters? Surely there are studio sized vaults for storing valuables, right? And what about a secret tunnel through which residents, guests and illicit lovers can be secreted out unnoticed if the need arises? We know we'd want those things iffin we were the Widda Safra which, of course, we are not.
Ever since the Missus Safra and the late Mister's swank penthouse in Monaco went up in flames, rumors have regularly raced through the international real estate community about the Widda Safra wanting to unload the costly and excessively high maintenance estate. It's probably not that the Widda Safra–herself a billionaire or close to–can't afford to keep the place. But let's get real butter beans, how many damn uber-luxe properties around the world does an empty nesting single senior citizen really need?
Anyhoo, Villa Leopolda, which was once falsely rumored yet widely reported to have been sold to Microsoft multi-billionaire Bill Gates, was once considered to be the world's most expensive estate even though it was never–as far as Your Mama knows–ever on the open market. However, all the uber-wealthy folks and real estate gossips who cares about such trivial things knew the place was available at the right price. In early 2009, the international real estate rumor mill was whispering and reporting that big living Russsian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov had entered into an agreement to buy Villa Leopolda from the Widda Safra for a fever making and stomach churning $750,000,000. That's right puppies, three quarters of a billion bucks. It drives Your Mama right to the loony bin just to think that anyone would be willing to part with that much money for a house they'd likely use, maximum, a few weeks each year.
The deal was all hush-hush, of course, and all parties involved insisted that no deal was being made. Then, as the Widda's luck would have it, the global economy flushed itself down the terlit and Gaspodin Prokhorov, the presumed buyer, backed out of the deal thus forfeiting a titanic $55,000,000 deposit. Naturally, the notoriously lavish living Russian bizness baron wanted his money back but the Widda Safra said, "Nyet." French law states that buyers lose their deposit if they back of of a transaction after the sales agreement has been signed and apparently the sales agreement had been signed because it wasn't long before the Widda Safra sent out a press release–that did not name the buyer–in which she said she was going to donate the forfeited $55,000,000 deposit to a variety of charities. You can do that sort of thing when you're richer than the damn Pope.
The estate was thought to have been removed from the market until mid-November of 2009 when the folks at Forbes put out their annual list of the world's most expensive homes and lo and behold, holding fast as the fourth priciest estate in all the world is Villa Leopolda. The estate is reportedly back on the market–although not the open market–with a dramatically reduced asking price of $102,000,000. That's a staggering, stunning and heart stopping 648 million dollar drop from its highest rumored asking price. Interestingly, the photo included in the tidbit on Forbes is not a photo of Villa Leopolda, but another exceptionally high priced villa in the area that goes by the name Villa Schiffanoia. We're not sure if the folks at Forbes just made a mistake and attached the wrong photograph or if they made an even bigger mistake and mistook the listing for Villa Schiffanoia for that of Villa Leopolda.
If indeed the folks at Forbes got the story right but the picture wrong and Villa Leopolda really is for sale with a $102,000,000 asking price, someone must have sat the well-dressed Widda Safra down and told her that even Russian billionaires, those mega-rich rascals who regularly drop tens of millions of dollars on extravagant estates like they're buying underpants and JC damn Penny, are no longer willing to spend half a billion dollar or more for a vanity real estate purchase such as Villa Leopolda. It remains to be seen if there are any titans, tycoons or potentates still willing to spend a hundred million on a house either. We shall see, we shall see.
The Widda Safra is said to also own homes in Geneva, London and New York City where she shacks up in a posh penthouse at the hallowed 820 Fifth Avenue.