Buyer of $36 million beachfront mansion in Naples remains a mystery

Laura Layden
Naples Daily News

The buyer of a $36 million mansion in Naples remains a mystery.

The recorded deed in Collier County shows a trust purchased the estate — at 2750 Gordon Drive — on Jan. 29.

The buyer's name? Orchard 2020 Revocable Trust.

The trustee for the new owner is listed as Peter Lee, a partner in and founder of Summit Trail Advisors, a Chicago-based financial advisory firm that specializes in serving entrepreneurs, private equity partners, entertainers and professional athletes (think NFL, NBA and NHL).

Reached via phone, Lee said he had no comment about his client, or his client's purchase of prime waterfront real estate in Port Royal — recognized as one of the priciest neighborhoods in America.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Lee’s clients have included such notables as basketball legend LeBron James and retired Chicago Bears star Brian Urlacher.

2750 Gordon Drive ranked in tenth place on a list of the 10 most expensive residential listings in Florida, with a price tag of $58 million.

Naples Realtor Bill Earls, a specialist in the luxury market who represented the seller, couldn't immediately be reached for comment about the sale of the mansion, known as "La Capana." 

The 18,172-square-foot estate features a five-car "collectors" garage, a 500-bottle wine room and more than a half-dozen bedrooms.

Built in 1999, the Italian Renaissance-style palace, with its marble floors and fireplace, includes a beachside game room, his and hers studies, a two-story rotunda, an elevator and a mahogany bar topped with green marble. 

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In the description for the property on his website, Earls labels it as "one of the most significant beachfront residences ever created in Naples."

The previous owner spent $3.5 million to renovate the home.

Buying elsewhere

This isn't the first significant real estate purchase made under the name Orchard 2020 Revocable Trust.

More than 1,000 miles away, a trust by the same name — with the same trustee — has been buying up lakefront property in Winnetka, Illinois, an affluent North Shore village about 16 miles north of downtown Chicago in Cook County, raising eyebrows and generating headlines.

In July 2020, property records show the secretive trust — represented by Peter Lee — bought a 1.5-acre property in Winnetka with a one-story 3,371 square foot house on it for $8.2 million.

A few months later, the same buyer — going under the name Walton 2019 Revocable Trust — purchased a vintage lakefront house on a 1.09-acre lot to the south for $9.5 million, the Chicago Tribune reported.

According to the daily newspaper, the mystery buyer is assembling property to likely create a 3.3-acre homesite that in total will cost $23.9 million, just for the land, which overlooks Lake Michigan.

The plan for assembling the property is complicated, as it includes a land swap with the Winnetka Park District, which has yet to happen.

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The exchange will allow the district to connect two lakefront parks by giving up a 71-foot-wide, 0.7-acre slice of open space to the trust, allowing the new owner to build a more sizeable compound.

On Feb. 1, the village's Land Preservation Commission approved the demolition of the two homes on property the trust has already acquired after determining that their historical context had been adequately captured, without the need to protect them, said John Peterson, executive director of the Winnetka Park District.

"That is one piece of the puzzle. There are other pieces of the puzzle," he said.

Reaching the 'finish line'

A few steps must still be taken before the property swap can happen in Winnetka, so the deal isn't expected to be finalized for a few more months. 

"We have already completed our property exchange agreement," Peterson said, which will facilitate the remaining steps that need to be taken to reach the "finish line."

The exchange will give the district 8 acres of uninterrupted park land,

with about 1,000 feet of uninterrupted shoreline, which will not only help with public access to the lake, but also preservation of the shoreline and bluff, he said.

The village has honored the true buyer's wishes to remain private.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the private buyer's expense and effort in Winnetka stand out — and would set a record for the Chicago-area before construction even begins.

Meanwhile, back in Naples the price Orchard 2020 paid for the gulf-front mansion in Port Royal didn't quite set a record.

Did you know?:Southwest Florida saw record jump in luxury home sales in 2020. Here's a full list of top-sellers

However, it still ranks as one of the highest residential sales in about three years in Southwest Florida, according to Matt Simmons, a principal of real estate appraisal firm Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons.

"It can be very difficult to sell a property like this," he said. "The pool of buyers is very small and the marketing efforts need to be surgical."

The seller of the property was Robert A. Watson, through his own revocable trust. He's a former president and chief executive officer of units of Westinghouse and TransAmerica,

The single-family home is the priciest to sell in the city since 2500 Gordon Drive fetched the most ever at $48 million in June 2018. Since that time, that sizable estate has been torn down, to make way for a new one that suits the new owner.

Related:Port Royal spec home fetches $18.5 million, showing market still hot

Not surprisingly, Port Royal led the way for the most expensive homes sold last year across Southwest Florida. The priciest one went for nearly $20 million.

Since the pandemic hit, the super high-end home market has generated more interest and activity.

Local real estate experts have attributed the trend to several factors, including "urban flight." That includes Denny Grimes, who has sold homes in Southwest Florida for more than 30 years.

In a recent phone interview about trends in the local real estate market, Grimes said COVID-19 has made smaller cities and suburbs more attractive, not just to the wealthy, but others looking for more space to live, work and play — and to avoid the coronavirus and its fallout.

"Basically, people are getting out of Dodge, and driving our market," he said.

Daily news reporter and In-the-Know columnist Phil Fernandez contributed to this story.