Watch, circle, and wait for a bargain. Looks like that was the Trump family’s strategy when it came to acquiring the Kluge estate.
Donald Trump and his son Eric have slowly nibbled away at the massive property of friend Patricia Kluge, the third wife of late billionaire John Kluge, who spent much of her massive divorce settlement on establishing a small empire in Albemarle County—a giant neo-Georgian mansion, vast land holdings, and a 1,000-acre vineyard and winery.
The Trumps now own it all. Yesterday, news broke that the father and son closed on the bank-owned manor house for $6.5 million—a tiny fraction of its original $100 million asking price.
Their bid history shows they’ve had their eye on the whole property for some time. The Washington Post reported that when the Trumps purchased the 900-acre vineyard for $6.2 million last year, they also intended to buy the house, but deemed Bank of America’s $16 million price tag too high.
Kluge established the vineyard in 1999, and built Kluge Estate into the largest winery in the state. But when the investment went sour, she and third husband Bill Moses ultimately defaulted on bank loans, and facing foreclosure, they declared personal bankruptcy in 2011. The Trumps bought the vineyard a few months later, and snapped up an adjacent 200 acres for half a million. They effectively owned the mansion’s front yard at that point, according to a wonderfully headlined July Wall Street Journal story.
They kept Kluge on as president of operations at the winery, but didn’t renew her contract this year—a move all parties said was mutually agreed upon.
“It’s what we always agreed we would do,” the younger Trump told C-VILLE in June. “A year ago, we said, you’re going to help us transition [the estate] from a bank-owned asset to an asset that’s up and running under our organization. She was able to do so really effectively.”
Trump and his father are considering a number of options for the property, according to the Post article:
Among the options the Trumps are considering: developing the land around the estate into a PGA Tour-worthy golf course, turning the house into an inn, or flipping the house and selling it along with 400 or 500 acres while keeping an operational vineyard. Eric Trump said several top golf course architects already have looked over the property, although he refused to say which ones. Arnold Palmer once designed a nine-hole golf course on the grounds.
And what does Kluge have to say about it? She told the Post reporter she and Moses are “thrilled.”