Versace's ex-mansion attracts celebs

Miami - One of America's most iconic homes, the Miami Beach mansion that once belonged to Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, goes on the auction block on Tuesday, with bidding set to open at $25m.

The 1930s-era Mediterranean-style estate, which has 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and a pool inlaid with 24-karat gold, is being sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding by its current owner, telecom magnate Peter Loftin.

Potential buyers will bid on the three-story oceanfront mansion, now known as Casa Casuarina, during a closed-door, poolside auction at the property on Miami's Ocean Drive.

"This is a one-of-a-kind property," said Lamar Fisher, president of Fisher Auction Company.

The names of most potential buyers were not released publicly before the auction. Bidders must sign a confidentiality agreement and meet financial requirements by making a $3m deposit and demonstrating an ability to pay at least $40m.

Fisher described the bidders as "wealthy, celebrity-type individuals." The Miami Herald reported that billionaire property developer Donald Trump was preparing to make a bid. A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 23 000-square-foot mansion, replete with hand-painted frescoes, Italian marble and even a gold-and-marble toilet, has been the subject of a lengthy legal battle.

In 1997, Versace was gunned down at the mansion's entrance gate by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. Three years later, Versace's family sold the property to Loftin, who is now facing bankruptcy and who had been trying to sell the house for more than a year.

The property was initially listed on the market with an asking price of $125m. The price was later lowered to $75m. It eventually ended up in bankruptcy proceedings.

The $25m minimum bid was set by the current mortgage holders of the property, VM South Beach, a company affiliated with the owners of the jeans company Jordache Enterprises,

In recent years, the mansion had been used as a private club and a boutique hotel.

Versace bought the property in 1992 for $2.9m. He then purchased the hotel next door and spent $33m on renovations to add another wing.

Inside, he decorated with an over-the-top style that included paintings of Grecian, nymph-like characters playing lyres under palm trees.

The snake-haired Medusa head, Versace's logo, is on display throughout the house, which is being sold fully furnished.

When Versace owned the property, he helped to usher in a renaissance of Miami's South Beach. His presence attracted models, jet-setters and celebrities including Sylvester Stallone and Madonna, who also purchased homes in Miami.

The former Versace mansion was originally built by Standard Oil heir Alden Freeman. It was modeled after the Alcazar de Colon palace built in the Dominican Republic in 1510 by the son of Christopher Columbus.

So far, the only known bidders are VM South Beach and Glenn Straub, a Florida developer who owns the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club.

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