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Real Estate Week: Transfer
A quick turn on real estate runway

June 25, 2004 By: Paola Iuspa-Abbott

John Casablancas sold the house he built for under the asking price

Photo by
Aixa Montero


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ashion mogul John Casablancas, who founded Elite Model Management, has sold the waterfront house he built last year in Key Biscayne to a Miami-based investor for $3.56 million.

Casablancas and his wife, Aline, put their home on the market three months ago and received three offers. It sits on a canal just a few blocks north of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

The Mediterranean-style home has marble and wood floors and huge windows. It was initially listed for $3.86 million, said James Salas, the broker who represented the buyers. Salas is president of Key Biscayne-based E Realty International.

William M. Noyes and his wife, Gabrielle, bought the 8,202-square-foot home at 260 Island Drive in late May.

“I’ve been looking for a house on the waterfront for a couple of years because we have two boats and two children,” said William Noyes, a 20-year resident of Key Biscayne. “We needed more space.”

Noyes said the house has seven bedrooms and nine baths.

On June 8, the Noyeses obtained a mortgage for $1.78 million from Northern Trust Bank of Florida, according to county property records.

William and Gabrielle Noyes also own two units at the Key Colony condominium on the barrier island, but they are up for sale. One is already under contract, said Noyes, who described himself as an investor but declined to disclose the kinds of businesses he’s involved in.

The 1.25-square-mile village of Key Biscayne has about 1,275 single-family homes and only few are for sale, Salas said. Property prices on the island fluctuate by the week, depending on the number of houses on the market, Salas said.

“There are 53 single-family homes on the market,” he said. “This is not healthy. In a healthy market, you have about 120 homes up for sale.”

Because of the demand, property appreciation in Key Biscayne can reach 15 percent per year. New homes similar to the one Casablancas sold are currently selling for about $4 million, he said.

“The land value was about $2.6 million when Noyes signed the contract,” he said. “Since then, the demand has gone up and prices increased.”

In July 2001, Casablancas bought a 40-year-old house on the 13,800-square-foot lot for $1.82 million. The lot is on the bank of a canal that empties into Biscayne Bay.

He demolished the old house and hired Key Biscayne architect Deborah de Leon to design a home more than twice the size of the original one.

“He built a beautiful house,” said Cecile M. Sanchez, a broker with Fortune International Realty in Miami, who represented Casablancas. She declined to comment on the transaction, citing her client’s privacy.

Salas said Casablancas plans to continue residing in Miami, while traveling back and forth to Brazil, where his wife is from.

Casablancas moved to Florida from New York in October 1999. In Miami, he launched Elite Latin & South America, which he sold a year later.

In 2000, he became a partner in Global Fashion Productions, which puts on the annual Fashion Week of the Americas in Miami.

Casablancas made his fortune in the modeling industry. He started John Casablancas, a school for aspiring models.

He also founded Elite in 1972 with its first office in Paris. Two years later, he opened Elite New York.

Elite currently operates in Chicago, Los Angles, Miami and other major U.S. and international cities. He sold the business in 1999 and moved to Miami.

Casablancas transformed the modeling industry back in the 1980s and ’90s, helping launch the career of the first supermodels. His clients included Christie Brinkley, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, Iman and Claudia Schiffer, said Casablancas’ spokeswoman, Lorraine Caggiano.

Casablancas, through his spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Under pressure from a multimillion-dollar verdict against it in a workplace suit, Elite Model Management filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. New York-based Carl Marks Capital Advisors is handling the sale of the company’s assets, which include Elite Los Angeles, Elite Miami, and other North American subsidiaries.

Elite is also involved in a class action lawsuit.

In June 2002, Elite and 12 other modeling agencies were named in a $50 million antitrust lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The complaint filed on behalf of about 10,000 models said Elite played a key role in a price-fixing scheme for more than 20 years. The case is pending.

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