Monday, December 5 2022

One of many structures in Little St. James.
Photo: Marco Bello/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This week, Great and Little St. James, Jeffrey Epstein’s private islands in the Caribbean, went on the market for $125 million. They are the so-called financier’s latest luxury properties to be listed since his death in prison in 2019. The 70-acre Little St. James is known as “Pedophile Island”, where Epstein and his associates brought and sexually assaulted girls. as young as 11, according to prosecutors in the Virgin Islands. In at least one case, a young woman who had been sexually abused tried to escape by swimming through shark-infested waters to nearby St. Thomas. Little St. James has many structures, including a main residential compound, a gym, a tiki hut, a music pavilion, and four guest villas, in addition to two swimming pools and three private beaches. Great St. James covers 160 acres of mostly undeveloped land and, according to court documents, was purchased in Epstein’s name, making it harder for the girls he brought to Little to escape. St. James. With that kind of history, it seems hard to believe someone would want to pay $125 million to call the property home, but someone sure will.

Stigmatized real estate almost always ends up selling, especially high-end real estate in the luxury market. After all, places where disturbing events have taken place usually come with a steep discount. Heaven’s Gate home, a 9,000 square foot mansion in an upscale San Diego neighborhood, sold for $668,000 in 1999 – about half the price of what the owner, who was leasing the property to the doomsday cult, had paid five years earlier. Neighbors bought the house and then quickly razed it, a common fate of notorious properties in prime locations – like Sharon Tate’s LA home. As most people associate a house more strongly than the land it sits on sits with an odious history, tearing the house down makes the property more appealing to future buyers.

Discounts and demolition have characterized Epstein’s two properties already sold (out of five in his portfolio). His Upper East Side townhouse, a 50-foot-wide mansion on what’s considered one of the city’s best blocks, went for $51 million to a former Goldman Sachs executive, a considerable discount from the asking price of $88 million. Epstein’s Palm Beach estate also traded at a discount, but much less dramatically – a developer bought it for $18 million, $4 million less than the listing price. He then demolished the compound, which was not particularly charming and, after the city rejected his plans for a mansion, sold the waterfront land to a venture capitalist for a profit of 25 .8 million. Epstein’s Paris apartment, an 8,000 square foot space overlooking the Arc de Triomphe and listed for $13.5 million, has yet to be sold, but it has only been put on the market in November and these things usually take a bit of time. Profits from those sales were used to compensate Epstein’s victims, but the program ended in August 2021 after paying out around $121 million to more than 135 women. Proceeds from future sales will be used to pay pending lawsuits and estate transaction costs, depending on The Wall Street Journal.

Epstein’s townhouse in Manhattan.
Photo: Bill Tompkins/Getty Images

Epstein’s private islands and remote ranch in New Mexico, listed for $27.5 million in July, are harder to sell than luxury properties in hot markets like Manhattan or Palm Beach. Both are large multi-building complexes located in remote areas, and these properties are already attracting a much smaller pool of buyers. Private islands are a particularly specialized luxury market and, unlike most high-end real estate, are not considered good investments. “If I hear a buyer looking at an island as an investment, I almost immediately tell them that’s not the way to look at it,” Knight Frank partner Edward de Mallet Morgan told Mansion Global. “It really is a luxury acquisition, and depending on how you handle it, more of a liability than an asset.” Another broker told the website that the typical turnaround time for sales is between one and five years – and that’s for a slice of tropical paradise. without a well-documented history of sexual assault at the scene.

Private islands are popular with celebrities, but a movie star or top athlete is unlikely to want to take on the negative publicity associated with buying “Pedophile Island.” Still, someone wealthy will no doubt end up buying the islands, though there’s a good chance that almost everything there, including the incredibly odd striped music pavilion, will end up being demolished.


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