Sunday, April 20, 2008

CHAIR OF BROOKINGS INSTITUTION BUYS HOUSE FOR $81 MILLION

JEFF OSTROWSKI, PALM BEACH POST In another sign of just how hot the mansion market is, the oceanfront estate built by billionaire businessman and philanthropist Sidney Kimmel has sold for $81.5 million, a record for the island. John L. Thornton, 54, a former Goldman Sachs partner and chairman of the Brookings Institution, is the buyer, people familiar with the transaction said. While the sale price was officially recorded Tuesday at $77.5 million, listing agent Paulette Koch said the buyer also paid $4 million in closing costs. That means Kimmel got his full asking price of $81.5 million. . .

"The house was in impeccable condition, with the finest details," said Koch, adding that three other buyers were interested in the property. The estate boasts 5 lushly landscaped acres and 300 feet of ocean frontage. The 32,000-square-foot home was designed by Thierry Despont, who also created Bill Gates' mansion. The living room includes 26-foot ceilings and 20-foot-high glass panels that disappear into the floor at the push of a button. The home also features a wine cellar, pool, waterfalls, staff quarters and an air chiller and 27-zone air conditioning system.

The sale tops the previous Palm Beach record of $70 million, which Ron Perelman's estate fetched in 2004. . .

For many, the home's property tax bill alone would prove daunting - $517,775 last year. . .

Thornton could not be reached for comment. In addition to his role with Brookings, an independent research and policy institute based in Washington, he is a director of Intel Corp., Ford Motor Co. and News Corp. He's also a professor of global leadership at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

It's not the first time Thornton has proved bullish on real estate. In 2001, he set a record for New Jersey home sales by paying $18 million for a 118-acre estate in Bedminster that Princeton University had been using as a retreat, The New York Times reported.

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