Thursday, October 18, 2018
Real Estate

Stripper poles, a coffin and a velociraptor: Florida developer’s belongings up for auction

If you had more money than you knew what do with, how would you decorate your home?

If you’re former South Beach developer and notorious playboy Thomas Kramer, you turn two Star Island mansions into extravagant celebrations of wealth, sex and your gaudy tastes, packed with furniture and paraphernalia that suit the high-rolling, Bacchanalian lifestyle you’re infamous for.

That’s why there are two stripper poles on the dining room table, which comfortably seats 14. The king-size bed in the master bedroom is fitted with chrome rings on corner posts for bondage nights.

There’s a collection of sculptures and figurines of creatures that might be as aggressive as Kramer, who’s known for being brash and confrontational. Over in a garage, life-size Alien and Predator statues stand sentry in the back. Behind greenery flanking the corner of a guest house, a large metal velociraptor stands, mouth wide open. On the other side of the courtyard is a rhinoceros sculpture with a picturesque view of downtown Miami’s skyline behind it.

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Kramer’s crest, a charcoal-colored shield with the head of a minotaur, adorns a large painting, books and office equipment.

Part of his aesthetic includes symbols of death, angels and demons. In the kitchen of one of the guest apartments, black plates have a skull and crossbones above the word "poison." On the second floor of a garage, there’s a table with a sparkly red goblet and multiple skull-shaped candle holders. A few feet away, a coffin lined with cherry-red cushioning lies on the floor, a purchase he made when he was once dark and depressed.

These items are just a sampling of Kramer’s former possessions that bidders can purchase at an upcoming public sale. The Miami Herald got an exclusive tour of Kramer’s former estate to look at the variety of items that will be sold in one package to the highest bidder on Feb. 14 in a sale being administered through Miami-Dade County.

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The sale marks the final Miami chapter in the long downward spiral for Kramer, who over the past 20 years has lost his fortune, his business cachet and now, his home and nearly everything in it. Kramer, known to many as "TK" and now living in Europe, gets to keep his personal photographs. That’s it.

"We’ve seized the personal property in 4 and 5 Star Island as the result of a judgment that our clients obtained against Mr. Thomas Kramer," said Latasha Hines, attorney at Koyzak Tropin Throckmorton, who is representing Kramer’s former in-laws in litigation against him. "Our clients are the heirs of Siegfried Otto."

Otto, a now-deceased wealthy German businessman, was Kramer’s former father-in-law. Otto gave Kramer millions to invest in South Beach real estate, which fueled Kramer’s rise and propelled him into the upper echelons of Miami Beach’s party scene, and therefore, into infamy for his shenanigans.

Later, a long legal tussle ensued over whether those millions were a gift or a loan. Kramer lost the case, and soon after, he lost his home and possessions.

The homes, expansive Mediterranean-style buildings painted a clay red, are also for sale. But they are not the focus of the auction of his property. The four-bedroom mansion at 4 Star Island is 8,162 square feet, and the property is joined with 5 Star Island, which has an 11,980 square-foot, 11-bedroom mansion.

"We are accepting offers," is all Hines would say.

As for the sale items, they include the furnishings one might expect: flat-screen televisions, high-end European furniture, oriental rugs, office equipment and patio furniture. But if Kramer, now 60, was the quintessential South Beach bad-boy defined by excess, fueled by sex and parties and known for his unique tastes, much of his stuff — set against a garish red palette — reflects that in spades.

Consider the bevy of pig figurines and paintings. There are piggy banks, pig statuettes with angel wings and a ceramic pig in an apron and chef’s hat holding a chalkboard that reads "Life is good." The swine theme is a repeated motif across the collection, perhaps a nod to pigs being used as a measure of wealth in ancient times.

Several couches, seats, phones, bedspreads, armoires and candles are some shade of red.

Multiple coffee tables are actually repurposed wooden castle doors. Topless women appear in the form of paintings, figurines and angel and devil characters flanking his "TK" logo. Nearly a dozen pieces of camouflage attire hang in the garage. A camo-design floormat welcomes guests into Kramer’s former office with a message in his native German: Enter at your own risk.

Hanging next to the stripper-ready dining room table is an 8-foot-by-10-foot painting depicting several muscular white men in loincloths grabbing the jaws of seemingly spooked white horses that are charging them. The inventory listed on the civil seizure form, which the public can view at www.moeckerauctions.com/auctions/sheriffs-sale, lists the painting as "Men w/horses" signed by "TR."

And there are mirrors. Large square mirrors with ornate gold frames. Freestanding long mirrors in several bedrooms. Simple rectangular mirrors on the walls, mounted at different heights so you observe — or be observed — at multiple angles.

The wine cellar is loaded with dozens of bottles of wine and liquor, as well as a life-size statue of a pleasantly plump monk who looks like he’s been indulging. A few cabinets over, there are relics of Kramer’s past: plastic cups branded with "Hell," the name of his failed nightclub.

Other items clearly harken back to Kramer’s past life as a hotshot South Beach developer. Large architectural models of Portofino Tower, the building Kramer is best known for developing, occupy a corner of the garage, next to several framed renderings of residential towers.

FROM PLAYBOY TO PARIAH

The models are relics from Kramer’s roller coaster ride through South Beach’s resurgence in the 1990s and 2000s. A former commodities trader who was born in Germany, he established himself on Wall Street, then lost his first fortune trading. He re-emerged when he started making waves in Miami Beach while he gobbled up swaths of property south of Fifth Street when the area was a crime-ridden mess.

Some of his purchases, even at above-market prices, turned out to be smart buys. His crowning achievement, Portofino Tower, was one of the first of many high-rise towers that would be erected in the area in the 1990s and 2000s, transforming the neighborhood.

But even Portofino wasn’t without its problems during development. Jorge Pérez’s Related Group had to come in with financing to finish the project, which was eventually a hit and a seed of the redevelopment that swept through the neighborhood in subsequent years.

But Kramer’s hard-partying lifestyle led to unsavory headlines and controversies. He was accused of raping multiple women and fondling a 13-year-old boy. He opened an Ocean Drive nightclub called "Hell" that flamed out within weeks. He was charged with punching a restaurant owner who asked him to put out a cigar at dinner.

He wasn’t convicted in those cases, but one legal problem stuck. The millions Kramer used to buy up properties in South Beach came from his former father-in-law, Siegfried Otto, the patriarch of a wealthy family that owns Germany’s largest bank-note printing company. Otto’s heirs won a protracted legal battle against Kramer in the Swiss courts, arguing that money was a loan. Kramer said it was a gift.

The courts ruled in the Otto family’s favor, slamming Kramer with a $200 million judgment. In 2017, a Miami-Dade civil court judge ruled that the judgment could be enforced in the U.S. So Kramer’s property was foreclosed and claimed by his creditors, along with his possessions inside. Kramer had already moved out and the houses stood mostly empty for the last five years.

Reached through a message on Facebook on Wednesday, Kramer told the Miami Herald he has moved on from his life in South Florida. He didn’t appear to be at all glum about his lost fortune.

"I closed the chapter Star Island and all the clutter connected with it in 2012 when I lost my court case in Switzerland!" he wrote. "To get to the point: I live a much easier, less complicated life — less alcohol."

Writing from St. Mortiz, an Alpine ski resort in Switzerland, he said he had a "great 20-year ride in Miami" that was "unbelievable," adding that he has no regrets.

"Less parties, less bills, less fights, less controversial court cases," he said about his current life. He gleefully shared a selfie with his new girlfriend, Diana Langes-Swarovski — owner of an Austrian soccer team and descendant of a wealthy crystal-manufacturing dynasty.

"Getting my highs thru sports, quality friends and family!," he wrote. "Traveling the world instead of worrying about bills, taxes and court cases!"

THE SALE

The public can inspect the items between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Feb. 13 at 4 and 5 Star Island Drive. The following day at 11 a.m., people can place bids for the entirety of his possessions, to be sold in one package, at the Miami-Dade County Sheriff’s Office, Overtown Village South Building, 601 NW First Ct., 9th Floor.

A 2011 Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck will be sold separately.

The truck’s color? Red.

Contact Joey Flechas at [email protected] Follow @joeflech

     
 
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