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Lennar Family Adds To Star Island Holdings

By Paola Iuspa-Abbott

A member of the Miller family, which controls home-builder Lennar, paid $27 million for a Star Island estate, setting a record for the priciest home purchase in Miami-Dade County.

The seven-bedroom mansion at 11 Star Island was purchased by a trust to try to mask the identity of the new owner.

Stuart Miller, Lennar's president and chief executive officer, has been looking to expand his holdings on the island to accommodate other family members, said a source speaking on condition of anonymity.

Miller currently lives at 6 and 7 Star Island Drive and is in the process of adding two floors to his two-story home. His mother, Susan, resides at 23 Star Island. His brother, Jeffrey, owns two vacant lots at 35 and 36 Star Island Drive.

Miller's sister, Leslie Saiontz, has been trying to join her family on the exclusive island and probably just did, said broker Nelson Gonzalez of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell, who specializes in luxury waterfront homes.

The 9,964-square-foot house on Biscayne Bay was built in 1950 on 2.75 acres. The lot size is a rarity on the island.

"It is an unusually long piece of land," said EWM broker Kevin Tomlinson. "Given the amount of land and the prestigious location, it is a find."

Which of the Millers may plan to occupy the pricey estate is unclear. Calls to Stuart Miller's office were not returned.

Coldwell Banker real estate broker Jill Eber declined to comment on the deal, citing a confidentiality agreement. She and Coldwell Banker partner Jill Hertzberg represented the purchasing trust and the seller, Bessemer Trust Company of Florida, trustee of the Rhoda C. Ware 1998 Residence Trust. They were the only brokers involved.

It may seem like the Millers own the whole island, but there's more than enough room left for Miami Heat star Shaquille O'Neal, singer Gloria Estefan and her husband, music impresario Emilio Estefan, and Ivax founder Phillip Frost. They are among the cadre of elite who inhabit the island near South Beach.

The deal closed April 10, a few days before another Miami developer reportedly paid a similar price for the estate of the late Miami Beach pioneer Carl Fisher.

High-rise developer Ugo Colombo bought the 78-year-old Fisher home at 5020 N. Bay Road for an undisclosed amount.

The seller was restoring and expanding the home and hoped to get about $40 million after the work was finished. Renovations were only half done when Colombo bought it last Wednesday.

Colombo bought the company that owned the house, so the sale price will not be recorded with the Miami-Dade County clerk's office.

Home-builder Todd M. Glazer, one of the partners in the selling company, would not disclose the price. He and partners Armin Mattli, who owns Swiss Clinique La Prairie, and Chad Oppenheim, a Miami architect, paid $16.5 million in December for the estate, which needed to be refurbished.

Developers are paying top dollar for homes in South Florida.

In Palm Beach, luxury home-builder Bruce Toll of Toll Brothers paid $26.95 million for a 17,701-square-foot mansion at 754 S. County Road in Palm Beach last September.

In the Star Island sale, the buyer's identity was hidden behind a trust. Attorney Brian L. Bilzin is the trustee of the buyer, 11 Star Island Residence Land Trust. Bilzin, a partner at Bilzin Sumberg in Miami, was in California on Monday and did not return a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment.

He has worked with the Miller family for several years. In his will Leonard Miller, who founded Lennar, appointed his longtime attorney Bilzin, his sons Stuart and Jeffrey and daughter Leslie as personal representatives to manage his estate.

The estate included the seven-bedroom home on Star Island where his widow, Susan Miller, lives. Susan and Leonard Miller paid $210,000 for their 9,262-square-foot home built the year before. Today, the property is assessed at $12.14 million, according to county records.

Lennar started small and grew into a company with revenue of $13.9 billion last year, up 32 percent from the previous year. It earned $2.3 billion in 2005, up 47 percent form 2004. Home deliveries were up 17 percent to 47,359 last year.

Leonard Miller put up $10,000 when he co-founded Lennar in 1956. He and co-founder Arnold Rosen took Lennar public in 1971 with an initial offering of $8.7 million.

Miller's will put 9.7 million shares in a trust and named his elder son, Stuart, as the sole trustee with full voting power. Stuart Miller retains voting control of 47 percent of the company through personal holdings and family-owned entities.

Paola Iuspa-Abbott can be reached at piuspa@alm.com.


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