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Leona Helmsley’s Lair to List for $125 Million

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By Christina S.N. Lewis

RISMEDIA, Feb. 5, 2008–(The Wall Street Journal Online)–Representatives of the estate of Leona Helmsley have decided to list her Greenwich, Conn., mansion for $125 million, people close to the negotiations said.

That’s a big price tag, even for Greenwich, an affluent New York suburb sometimes dubbed the hedge-fund capital of the world, and it would be among the highest prices ever asked for a Northeast home. The listing agent, David Ogilvy of Christie’s Great Estates, is expected to begin showing the home at the end of February, a person close to the talks said.

Known as Dunnellen Hall, the estate of more than 40 acres was at the center of Mrs. Helmsley’s 1989 federal tax-evasion trial, when she was accused of illegally billing her company for more than $3 million of property renovations. The former model, dubbed the “queen of mean,” served 18 months in federal prison. She died in August at age 87.

The 1918 Jacobean-style manor house of more than 20,000 square feet, with 10 bedrooms, sits on one of the highest points in the Greenwich backcountry and has views of Long Island Sound. There’s also a carriage house and pool house.

The estate must be sold, according to terms of Mrs. Helmsley’s will, which left the bulk of her billionaire real-estate holdings and property to a trust, $12 million to her dog and comparatively little to her closest relatives. The real estate includes a majority interest in the Empire State Building.

Last month, Christie’s auction division announced it will sell selected contents of Mrs. Helmsley’s homes in a series of sales this year.

With many of Greenwich’s older homes demolished, Dunnellen Hall is one of the few intact historic estates left in town, says Anne Young, an archivist with Greenwich’s Historical Society. Industrialist Daniel Grey Reid paid the then-enormous sum of $1 million to build the home for his daughter. It has marble floors, limestone walls and 15th-century fireplace mantels. There are indoor and outdoor pools, a koi pond and a walk-in silver vault.

To sell the home, Christie’s is likely to reach out directly to Greenwich billionaires and may try to coordinate with the auction house. Last year, Christie’s placed banners advertising a $135 million Aspen, Colo., ranch in the company’s New York headquarters.

Few residential deals have topped $100 million. Last year, hedge-fund manager Bruce Kovner spent $83.3 million assembling a 15-acre swath of oceanfront bluff in California’s Santa Barbara County, and has agreed to pay more for seven adjacent acres. Also last year, investor Ron Baron paid $103 million for 40 acres of oceanfront land in East Hampton, N.Y.

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