ST. PETERSBURG — A furniture magnate once ranked among America's richest billionaires just scooped up one of Tampa Bay's priciest home sales in years, buying a Brightwaters Boulevard mansion for $8.4 million.
Ashley Furniture founder Ron Wanek and his wife, Joyce, bought the waterfront estate on St. Petersburg's priciest block in a private sale July 1, property records show.
The Waneks bought the home from Jim and Suzanne MacDougald, who purchased the acre of exclusive coastline in 1999 for $2.5 million before building the 10,000-square-foot villa there in 2004.
The two-story Snell Isle mansion features an elevator, a pool, multiple fireplaces and a dock extending into Tampa Bay, records show.
Though the private deal was kept off the open market, a deed filed with Pinellas County officials confirmed the sale.
The Waneks did not return messages Monday.
Wanek built his Wisconsin-based firm into one of the nation's largest furniture stores, with $3.5 billion in revenue and 18,000 employees last year. In 2008, Forbes magazine said Wanek's net worth was $1.5 billion, making him the 321st richest person in America, a tie that year with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Wanek slid off the list during the housing crisis.
In 2011, the small town where Ashley is headquartered unveiled a bronze statue of Wanek that called him "one of the greatest industrialists in Wisconsin history."
Wanek, a prominent Republican donor, gave $1 million last year to help host Tampa's Republican National Convention. The Waneks also housed the Wisconsin delegation on Snell Isle, where property records show the couple owns two homes bought in 2008 for a total of more than $6 million.
MacDougald, president of Westshore Ventures, is also known for his support of conservative causes. He spent more than $1 million to launch a now-defunct group called Free Enterprise Nation to advocate against "excessive government spending," and has taken to TV, radio and newspapers to call government workers "the new privileged class."
The sale is this area's priciest since 2011, when mortgage baron and BayWalk redeveloper Bill Edwards bought a waterfront mansion down the street called Villa Terranova for $9 million, multiple listing service data show.
The priciest mansion sold last year was wrestler Hulk Hogan's in Belleair, which sold for $6.2 million.
Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.