Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The High Price of Grandiosity

The rich are not like you and me, F. Scott Fitzgerald once opined,
and he should know. He spent a fair amount of time observing and
writing about the foibles and the follies of the monied set.

And while I’d like to have a vault full of cash to assure the comfort
of my family now and for a few generations forward, I’m glad I’m not
subject to the narcissistic instincts that afflict the wealthy.

Example A is David Siegel, a time share tycoon who runs his company,
Westgate Resorts, out of Orlando, Fla. Fitzgerald would have loved

Mr. Siegel and his wife several years ago thought it would be swell
to build the biggest house in the United States. So they embarked on
an ostentatious monstrosity they called “Versailles” after the royal
chateau outside of Paris that was once housed the kings of France.

This Americanized version is located in Windermere, a gated enclave
for the well-to-do that had managed to escape notoriety until a
couple of residents, Mr. and Mrs. Tiger Woods by name, had a very
loud and public spat several years ago.

The Siegel’s dream home is a tidy 90,000 square feet. It features 13
bedrooms, 23 full bathrooms, a 6,000-square-foot master suite (with
plans for a bed on a rotating platform), a banquet kitchen plus 10
satellite kitchens, a 20-car garage, three pools, a two-story wine
cellar and a grand hall with a 30-foot stained glass dome and a
ballroom that will accommodate 1,000.

That’s just the basics. It also features a boat house, formal
gardens, a baseball field, two tennis courts and a rock grotto with a
waterfall, a fitness center, a two-lane bowling alley, a roller rink,
a video arcade and a theater.

And I thought I had trouble finding my glasses and keys in my
2,500-square-foot corner of the world.

The cost: In the neighborhood of $100 million which is not bad
considering the Brazilian mahogany French doors cost $4 million alone.

The good news, especially if you’re a billionaire Russian arms dealer
or a member of the House of Saud, is that it’s for sale.
Asking price is $75 million, a real steal.

By comparison, the mansion once owned by Aaron Spelling in Holmby
Hills recently sold for $85 million and it’s only 56,500 square feet,
larger than the White House but a mere tract home compared to

The difference is that the Siegel pad isn’t finished. Seems like the
recession kicked Mr. Siegel right in his assets and it was au revoir

Completing it will set you back another $25 million, assuming you
want to follow Siegel’s plans. If you want changes --- say, another
10 or 15 bathrooms for instance ---- well, that will up the price.

And you have to live in Florida which is no bargain at all.

In the meantime, Siegel will have to make do with his current
26,000-square-foot home where he and his wife were recently profiled
in a documentary entitled “The Queen of Versailles” which was shown
at the Sundance Festival.

The Siegels didn’t much care for the film. They’re suing for

While Siegel sits, brooding, he is probably discovering that this
grandiosity game is tough to win.

For example, the real Versaille in France checks in at 721,206 square
feet. So Siegel’s dream, had he completed it, was in reality a faux
Versailles, a pretend version kind of like the Matterhorn at
Disneyland. Nobody takes it seriously.

And when it comes to sheer unmitigated spending, Segal would have
been hard pressed to top the 27-story floor personal home of
businessman Mukesh Ambani, the billionaire chairman of Reliance

It takes a staff of 600 to maintain the residence,located in Mumbai,
India, which was built to accommodate Ambani, wife Nita, their three
children and Ambani's mother.

It features 400,000 square feet of living space, parking space for
168 cars, nine elevators in the lobby, three helipads and an air
traffic control facility.

Also included is a health spa, yoga studio, small theater with a
seating capacity for 50 on the eighth floor, a swimming pool, three
floors of hanging gardens, a ballroom and an ice room infused with
man-made snow flurries.

Forbes Magazine estimated the cost of the residence at nearly $2

It remains empty, however, because the owner believes it would be bad
luck to move in, according to the Daily Mail.

Maybe he and Siegel can find a nice condo somewhere.

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