Sat, 09 Jan 2010 22:24:46
Astors Beechwood sold to fourth richest man in the world, Larry Ellison. There are still plenty of other mansions in Newport that are open to the public. While viewing these mansions, consider staying at The Spring Seasons Inn, your Newport destination getaway.By Richard Salit
Journal Staff Writer
NEWPORT — Oracle founder Lawrence Ellison, a yachtsman described as the fourth-richest man in the world, has apparently purchased Astors’ Beechwood, the storied mansion on Bellevue Avenue.
Ellison, who was competing in Newport last summer with his BMW Oracle Racing team, is linked to a deed filed at City Hall on Wednesday that documents the $10.5-million sale of the 39-room estate “where American society began.”
The deed transfers ownership of the mansion to Eastern Estates LLC, with an address of 101 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Walnut Creek, Calif. That is also the address of Ellison’s Lawrence Investments venture capital enterprise.
In 1977, Ellison founded Oracle, which is now among the largest software companies in the world. Forbes reports that Ellison’s net worth of $22.5 billion made him the fourth-richest person in the world in 2009. He owns several mega-yachts, including the five-story, 453-foot Rising Sun.
Time once described Ellison — who races yachts, flies jet-fighter planes, has engineered hostile takeovers and brashly attacked rival Microsoft — as “the flashy antihero of Silicon Valley.” The 64-year-old college dropout remains Oracle’s CEO.
Ellison is apparently the mysterious buyer mentioned in court papers filed in October in Superior Court, Newport. That case was brought by a trust that claimed it was owed money by Robert B. Milligan Jr., who for years operated Astors’ Beechwood and is linked to the entity that owns the mansion. The settlement of the case indicated it would be sold for $10.5 million to an unidentified buyer.
Ellison’s name does not appear on any of the property records involving the transaction or the incorporation papers for the entity that purchased the mansion.
Astors’ Beechwood has been used for many years for daily tours that have featured actors portraying staff and members of the Astor family, but it has also hosted special events such as weddings, murder mysteries and Victorian Christmas activities. The settlement indicates that weddings already booked will continue through August.
“I think it’s really interesting. I’m just wondering if he’s going to turn it into a private residence,” said Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, when she learned of the buyer’s apparent identity. She expressed some regret about the mansion changing hands, saying, “It was a very unique experience for people that had come to Newport and went to some of the other mansions. With the interaction of staff, it was a treat.”
Astors’ Beechwood was built in 1851, then bought and renovated 30 years later by William Backhouse Astor Jr., grandson of John Jacob Astor and heir to the family’s fur trading and real-estate fortune. His wife, Caroline Astor, became known as the “queen of American society.”
“A spectacular testament to the Gilded Age, this Italianate mansion boasts a history as dazzling as its dramatic oceanfront setting,” read one real estate ad for the property.
The Newport law firm representing Eastern Estates has declined comment, and Milligan has not returned calls. Philip B. Simon, the president of Ellison’s Lawrence Investments and the manager of Eastern Estates as listed in state incorporation papers, declined comment.