TARPON SPRINGS — Capping one of the more bizarre sagas in Tampa Bay real estate circles, an estate sprawling over 16 acres has sold for $10 million.
The sale — the fifth biggest ever in the bay area — was made possible after owner William Baumgart paid a prospective buyer $300,000 last summer to "get out of my life.'' The actual buyer is a limited liability company of which David McComas, a real estate developer and major Subway Sandwich franchise holder, is a manager.
“It’s a beautiful home,” McComas said Monday. “It could never be built for what he (Baumgart) put into it.”
Baumgart built the nine-bedroom, 13-bath house in 2006, the year he sold his Clearwater-based TransContinental Title Company to one of America’s largest title insurers for an undisclosed sum. Among the home’s unusual features is “The Village,” an entertainment wing that includes a pub, a book store and a replica of an old-time movie palace replete with stage, red velvet curtains and faux balconies. A 12-foot- deep pool, once thought to be Florida’s largest private pool, has a rope bridge and swim-up tiki bar.
In March, Teras Foundation and its president, Lori Nademus, contracted to pay $9.75 million for the house and celebrity memorabilia that included guitars signed by Jim Hendrix and George Harrison. At the time, Baumgart did not know that Nademus’ own house was in foreclosure and that she had declared bankruptcy several times.
After Teras twice failed to close as scheduled, Baumgart prepared to cancel the contract and temporarily take the house off the market. But Teras sued, blaming him for the closing delays and seeking to force him to go ahead with the sale. Baumgart, who had found another buyer, paid $300,000 to get the suit dismissed so he could finally sell the house after five years of trying.
The house, just off Keystone Road, is in a neighborhood called Bison Creek that originally was envisioned for 14 estate-style homes. Former National Basketball Association star Matt Geiger built first — an enormous place that he sold in 2011 for $8 million — followed by Baumgart and his mansion. A third house is under construction.
McComas said the company with which he is affiliated, Bison Creek Estate, LLC, is evaluating the property it purchased Friday but has not decided what to do with it. He would not say if he plans to live there himself.
A Pinellas County native, McComas bought his first Subway franchise at 18 and has since become one of the largest Subway franchise holders on Florida’s west coast. He also founded and is CEO of European Equities Corp., a Clearwater-based real estate development and property management firm whose clients include Subway, Bright House Networks and Pizza Hut.
As for Baumgart, he’s building another house in Tarpon Springs. Until it’s finished, he’s spending time with his brother in Lake Geneva, Wis.: "I called him and said, ‘I’m going to be your house guest for four months. How do you like that?’ "