TAMPA — Somebody got a bargain.
The palatial Avila estate built by former gold dealer Mark Yaffe has been sold for $5.58 million, 78 percent less than its original asking price of $25 million.
At $193 a square foot — well below that for most upscale properties — the total price still ranks as the second-highest paid for any home or condo in the Tampa Bay area this year.
A Belleair Beach mansion on the Intracoastal Waterway went for $6.7 million in August.
Bank of America took back Yaffe's 29,000-square-foot palace in a foreclosure sale last year and sold it Nov. 14 to 706 Guisando, a limited liability company that derives its name from the property address.
Whoever the new owners actually are, "They did get a good deal," said Dina Sierra Smith, a Smith & Associates agent who once had the listing. "It's 5 acres on the golf course, it's gorgeous and the quality is amazing."
Last month's sale came five years after Yaffe's National Gold Exchange, once one of the world's largest precious coin dealers, declared bankruptcy with $36 million in debts.
Sovereign Bank, the gold exchange's largest creditor, told a bankruptcy court that it suspected Yaffe had skimmed $10 million from his company to build the opulent estate.
Modeled after a 17th century royal palace, the Jacobean manor boasts 10 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, a grand ballroom, a marble-floored basketball court, 14 fireplaces and 15,000 square feet of terraces.
Seven years under construction, it was completed in 2004 and first hit the market four years later for $25 million, then Tampa Bay's most expensive listing. The price was slashed at least twice with no takers before Bank of America foreclosed last December.
According to a judgment, Yaffe owed the bank $10.54 million.
The estate went back on the market in June for $8.5 million, finally selling for almost $3 million less.
The bank did not return calls for comment and Dianne Martin, the Century 21 agent who had the most recent listing, said she could not disclose any information about the buyers.
An exclusive enclave in north Tampa, Avila has been home to many prominent sports figures including Baseball Hall of Fame infielder Roberto Alomar, who is asking $5.5 million for his 18,000-square-foot mansion, and former Tampa Bay Rays owner Vince Naimoli, whose 15,000-square-foot villa dropped in price, also to $5.5 million, after it failed to sell at auction last month.
Speculation has swirled that a member of the Glazer family, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is the new owner of Yaffe's palace.
That's "the word on the street," said Michelle Fitz-Randolph, the Coldwell Banker agent who had the listing before Bank of America foreclosed. "I have no confirmation."
Through trade shows and Home Shopping Network sales, Yaffe, a college dropout, turned his brother's small Massachusetts coin and hobby store into an international behemoth with gold operations in Paris, London, Zurich and Brussels. In 2008, National Gold Exchange's sales peaked at $285 million.
A bankruptcy trustee later alleged that Yaffe used his company as his personal piggy bank, acquiring a "collection of rare and valuable music boxes" that he showcased at the Avila estate.
Yaffe could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Daniel Saxe, said he is living in the bay area in "a small rental."
Saxe would not say what Yaffe is currently doing although Florida corporate records show a "Mark Yaffe" as manager of at least three active Tampa-based companies that appear to be coin-related. Among them is coininfo.com, incorporated this year; a website by the same name calls itself "America's leading coin and precious metals site."
"He's trying to make a living like everyone else," Saxe said. "He's lost a lot, and he's trying to move forward."
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.