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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Auction, not Bonfire, of Vanities

I promised my readers last week that I would tell y’all the tragic tale of the former ‘Queen of Albemarle’ wineries. Ms. Patricia Kluge, ex-wife of the late philanthropist John Kluge (died Sept 2010 at age 95 and most famous for founding Metromedia), has been in financial hot water for the past year+ (at least publicly)...

It all got questionable - to me - in July 2007 when she abruptly closed Fuel, Co. a gas station/bistro mix after being open for barely four years. It has all gone downhill since that first closing. Clearly Kluge and her latest husband have run her massive divorce settlement from John Kluge into the ground. This past summer, Kluge held an auction with Sotheby’s at her expansive home Albemarle House.

That sale grossed $15.2 million dollars. Since that time, Kluge has lost the expansive Albemarle House as well, expansive as it is 25,000+ square feet. Originally, Albemarle House was listed for sale at $100 million but has continually dropped in this economy. This does not include her Vineyard, the real estate development Vineyard Estates and additional assets in the area.

Kluge has creditors up in arms here, owing money to Farm Credit, Sonabank and Bank of America. Local businesses are owed tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars - can you imagine having those massive amounts owed on your books during tax season? What a nightmare - this includes construction companies for renovations as well as almost $3,000 owed to a local pool maintenance company. Such a sad thing. What is even worse is that while they haven't missed a single payment of the $1.2 million gift to the local community college Piedmont Virginia Community College --- they have only made five payments while five still remain on the Kluge-Moses Science Building (which has already been completed, opened even, for over a year now).

As you marvel at this large estate, understand that it isn't a real estate. The Kluge's built it in 1985.

Please enjoy a photo tour....

"King George III Serpentine Walnut Cabinet"

"King George III Serpentine Dressing Comode"

"the average wall lights"

"Living Room (in the English style)"

"Drawing/Music Room"

"the average wall clock at Albemarle House (Qing dynasty Guangzhou Imperial Clock)"

"Dining Room table"

"Dining Room"

"The Hallway"

"Back porch"

"The Rose Terrace"

Most information I knew first-hand, but some statistics may have come from The Hook story called “Reversal of Fortune” by Lisa Provence. She clearly did her job of covering all of the bases on this story – you go, shug! Most photos are of public domain, but some are from The Hook and Sotheby's.


  1. There's value to Fake It Til You Make It as a strategy. But if you never make it you're in big trouble.

  2. Agreed, L. The whole thing screams new money, except the place was filled with lots of beautiful antiques. Had you EVER heard of a SIX HUNDRED page Sotheby's list of items before? I had not. Nor had my Grandmama!

  3. That's so crazy! I can't imagine owing that much money, but it is good that they donate... They do/did have some beautiful things.

  4. Fascinating! Some of the items are so lovely while others are, each their own! HA! Fascinating post, W! LOVE!

  5. Every time I read one of these stories I have the exact same reaction: How did it ever get that far without someone noticing? This is also my reaction to pretty much everything I read in law school, too.

  6. Leslie, it is good that they donated. Some. Not as much as her ex-husband and his family, however.

  7. Muffy, I am with you. Some of the stuff was ugg as in fug.

  8. Jamie - It wasn't about them going without - it was about their line of credit disappearing in the financial crisis so the creditors wanted them to start paying principle and not just interest on ballooning debts. Still, a nightmare.