CEO’s house of cards
ASPEN One of Aspen’s most historic buildings now has the distinction of being tied to one of Florida’s most expensive yachts, all because of a floundering hedge-funds firm. The Sardy House and the “Positive Carry” boat were both put up for sale last month by their owner, United Capital CEO John Devaney, in the wake of his company’s financial tailspin. Combined, the two have an asking price of $45 million – $21.5 million for the 16,000-square-foot Victorian, which got its name from the late Aspen visionary Tom Sardy, who once ran his mortuary business there; $23.5 million for the 142-foot yacht, which is named after an investment strategy.Devaney’s bid to unload them comes after Florida-based United Capital was forced to freeze some $620 million of the assets it manages because its Horizon hedge funds lost money in the midst of a shaky subprime mortgage market. That has prompted speculation that because investors can’t make withdrawals, they may sue.
Devaney did not respond to an e-mail request seeking an interview for this story. A United Capital spokesman also would not talk.”We’ve seen so much press lately that we’re not commenting at all,” said Michael Gregory, spokesman for Florida-based United Capital Markets, on Friday. “We’re officially not commenting.”Devaney has hired Aspen broker Joshua Saslove to market the Sardy House, which is listed for $5 million more than what Devaney paid for it some eight months ago. Saslove said the price increase is simply because the Aspen market is strong and Devaney made significant capital improvements to the private home, which had been a bed-and-breakfast hotel until Devaney bought it. And although Devaney may be considered a motivated seller because of his embattled company, the asking price is fairly firm, said Saslove.Saslove played down the bad publicity surrounding Devaney – he’s been the subject of such headlines as CNNMoney.com’s “Fund manager’s fund sailing away” and the Economist’s “Abandon ship” – and said potential suitors aren’t too concerned with Devaney’s reported troubles. “There may be some purchasers who have that kind of thinking, but most purchasers know they have an opportunity that will never be available to them, and that is to buy a property like the Sardy House in Aspen, Colorado,” said Saslove, noting that between 10 and 15 potential buyers have toured the property, located at 128 E. Main St.
Saslove claimed ignorance about Devaney’s motives to sell the Sardy House.”I don’t know enough about his personal life to talk about it,” he said.But, Saslove noted, Devaney has spent little time in Aspen recently, yet his seemingly lavish taste has made a mark on Main Street. Last December, to much local fanfare, he spent $250,000 to keep the Sardy House’s legendary Christmas tree – at 90 feet it’s said to be the tallest of its type – aglow for the holiday season and the ensuing months. “As the new owners of the Sardy House, we can’t think of a better way to honor the property’s rich history than to uphold the tradition of the annual Christmas tree lighting,” Devaney said in a prepared statement sent to the local press.
One Aspen nonprofit, in the meantime, is watching the developments with Devaney. Devaney’s United Capital was the title sponsor of the Aspen Celebrity Downhill, which benefits the Aspen Youth Experience, the last two years.”We are aware of what’s going on,” said an employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He has been a great sponsor.” Devaney, the employee said, has put $100,000 toward each Aspen Celebrity Downhill to gain title-sponsor status.But for now, a 2008 sponsorship is not guaranteed, the employee said. Rick Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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