MIAMI BEACH, Florida (AP) — The new owners of the South Beach mansion where Gianni Versace lived and died said Tuesday that they hope to use the Italian fashion designer's name and legacy in rebranding the property as a hotel.
VM South Beach LLC bid $41.5 million for the oceanfront property on Miami Beach's touristy Ocean Drive. The company's principals include the Nakash family of New York, which controls Jordache Enterprises.
Joe Nakash, chairman of Jordache Enterprises, said he expects to retain all the reminders of Versace's time in South Beach in the 1990s — the snake-haired Medusa heads, a swimming pool inlaid with 24-karat gold tiles and the tourists who still have their picture taken on the front steps where the designer was shot dead by a serial killer.
"We're going to keep it the way it is," Nakash said. Versace and an entourage of celebrity friends that included Madonna, Cher and Elton John helped change South Beach from a retirement community known as "God's waiting room" to the party-centric, international tourist destination it is today.
Jordache Enterprises owns five hotels in Miami Beach, including the Hotel Victor next door to the mansion. "We're going to use the name Versace after we receive OK from the family," Nakash said. Efforts to reach representatives for the Versace family were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Even if the Versace family declines to license their name, Nakash said he planned to honor the designer with a plaque marking where he died. VM South Beach outbid Donald Trump and developer Glenn Straub, who owns the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club.
The mansion has been officially named Casa Casuarina for more than a decade, operating first as a private club and then as a boutique hotel until earlier this year. But locals still refer to it as "the Versace mansion." It was initially listed for sale at $125 million last year. The asking price dropped to $75 million by June.
Associated Press writer Colleen Barry contributed to this report from Milan, Italy.