Israelis buy Versace mansion for $41.5 million

Founders of Jordache empire beat out Donald Trump at auction for murdered fashion mogul’s Miami Beach home

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

The Versace mansion, purchased by the Israeli-born Nakash brothers. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Chensiyuan CC BY-SA 2.5)
The Versace mansion, purchased by the Israeli-born Nakash brothers. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Chensiyuan CC BY-SA 2.5)

A trio of Israeli-born brothers and businessmen bought the Miami Beach mansion of murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace on Tuesday, paying $41.5 million for the famous home.

Raphi, Avi, and Joe Nakash, who created Jordache Enterprises Inc., edged out real estate tycoon Donald Trump by half a million dollars.  They plan to make the property available to the public, possibly using it as a hotel, restaurant, or event space, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

“We are not closing it off, we are not using it as a private residence,” Jonathan Bennett, director of Jordache’s real estate division, told Bloomberg. “It will be open to the public and people will be able to participate and appreciate and see this magnificent property.”

The home, known as Casa Caurina, was built by renowned architect and author Alden Freeman in 1930. He modeled it on the Alcazar de Colon, the palace in the Dominican Republic built by Christopher Columbus’s son. The second most photographed house in America after the White House, Casa Caurina features a rooftop observatory and a gold-lined pool. Versace spent $33 million renovating the home after buying it for $3 million in 1992.

He was murdered on the steps of the home in 1997.

Following the killing, the property was purchased by Telecom entrepreneur Peter Loftin, but he failed to keep up with his mortgage payments. After being caught up in legal battles for several years, the mansion went to auction. The bidding, run by the Fisher Auction Co., opened at $25 million, initially attracting five interested parties.

Joe Nakash, chairman of Jordache Enterprises, said he expects to retain all the reminders of Versace’s time in South Beach in the 1990s — the snake-haired Medusa heads, a swimming pool inlaid with 24-karat gold tiles and the tourists who still have their picture taken on the front steps where the designer was shot dead by a serial killer.

“We’re going to keep it the way it is,” Nakash said.

Versace and an entourage of celebrity friends that included Madonna, Cher and Elton John helped change South Beach from a retirement community known as “God’s waiting room” to the party-centric, international tourist destination it is today.

Jordache Enterprises owns five hotels in Miami Beach, including the Hotel Victor next door to the mansion.

“We’re going to use the name Versace after we receive the okay from the family,” Nakash said.

Efforts to reach representatives for the Versace family were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Even if the Versace family declines to license their name, Nakash said he planned to honor the designer with a plaque marking where he died.

Joe Nakash, the eldest brother, arrived in New York in 1962. He and his brothers opened a small clothing shop in Brooklyn, and began their rise to prominence when their Jordache Jeans line became wildly popular in the late 70s and early 80s.

After Jordache lost its appeal, the brothers hit a rough patch in the 90s until they began investing in banking and real estate. They have more recently become major players in the Israeli hotel scene, and own a majority share in Arkia airlines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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