Friday, October 19, 2007

Big Land For Sale For Big Bucks: Haroche Wants $95 Million For Property He Bought For $6.7 Million from Sulzbergers

The old Sulzberger estate on the Stamford-Pound Ridge border, now owned by Gilbert Haroche (owner of Liberty Travel), covers 263 acres and, if it sells for its asking price of $95 million (which I reported on Monday), would be one of the most expensive property transactions ever in the U.S.

The property is being marketed as being in Pound Ridge, rather than Stamford, which is slightly ironic, I guess, because years ago the Haroches got into a publc quarrel with the Town of Pound Ridge when they proposed building an equestrian center on the Pound Ridge part of the property. The planning board here said no, and the Haroches held a grudge for some time. About six years ago, when I became chairman of the committee here that advises the Town Board on how to spend its open space acquisition fund, one of our committee members knew Gil Haroche professionally and asked him if the committee could walk his property. Haroche's answer was a flat no, and the reason given was that he was still pissed off at the Town.

Whatever. We weren't likely to recommend acquisition anyway.

So who would buy 263 acres for $95 million? Local real estate agents tell me that there's a lot of hedge fund money around, waiting to be spent on land, and that people with that kind of dough don't really care what land costs if it's the property is what they want. And of course it could go to a developer, although any developer with sense would realize that developing the Pound Ridge part would require a lot of long, tough years in front of the planning board.

The property is known as Hillandale. The Haroches bought it from the Sulzbergers (the New York Times family) in 1992 for $6.7 million. In the mid 1980s (and perhaps earlier) it had its own menagerie of lethargic animals who would mope around behind a chain-link fence on Rock Rimmon Road, on the Stamford portion of the land. It has five houses, including a main house with almost half an acre of floor space, 5-plus miles of roads, and a lake. And because the property is in the Mianus River watershed, what happens on it could affect Long Island Sound and Greenwich's drinking water supply.

Here's a link to the newspaper account where I found some of this information.


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