$7.5M Ligonier estate owned by former EDMC exec to be auctioned with no reserve

The man who spent four decades assembling one of the nation’s largest for-profit higher education systems from a single art school in Pittsburgh before it was sold for billions of dollars is auctioning off his Ligonier country estate .

The rolling 198-acre compound belonging to Robert Knutson and his wife, Miryam, is in the midst of the region’s fox hunt country. It includes 9,300 square feet of living space in the sandstone manse, a property described as ideal for “large family gatherings or charity balls.”

The estate — which includes a five-bedroom guest house, shooting range, heated dog kennels, stocked fishing ponds and a variety of other amenities — will go on the auction block Jan. 10 in Chicago. Platinum Luxury Auctions, which is overseeing the sale, said there is no minimum reserve price on the property, which was previously listed for $7.5 million.

The property, along the Ligonier-Cook Township line, is among four homes the Knutsons maintained at luxury enclaves across the country. Woodmere and another estate in Boca Grande, Fla. , will go up for auction Thursday, while the couple’s homes in Durango, Colo. , and Santa Fe, N.M. , are scheduled to be auctioned Jan. 12.

All four properties had been marketed for a combined $46 million, according to the auction company.

Knutson said he and his wife decided to consolidate their holdings in the spring when he faced health issues, stemming from a mystery infection he suffered a year and a half ago. In April, the Knutsons bought a $25 million retirement home in Los Angeles. Knutson said the climate and the home’s proximity to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where he receives treatment, were considerations in the move.

While all of their homes are beautiful, Knutson said 160 Woodmere Drive — the sprawling Ligonier property the couple called home for more than three decades — holds a special place in his heart.

“It was a very emotional thing to be leaving Western Pennsylvania. When I think of all the things my wife and children and grandchildren enjoyed at wonderful Woodmere, the walking trails, the fish ponds — it was just very special,” said Knutson, who describes himself as an avid outdoorsman.

During nearly five decades, he became immersed in the region, serving on the board of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Pittsburgh’s public television station WQED and hosting fox hunts on his mountain estate.

“I know a lot about Western Pennsylvania. I have great respect for the people,” Knutson said.

Robert McDowell, chief of the Darlington Volunteer Fire Department which serves the wealthy estates on the ridge, didn’t know Knutson personally but said his department benefited from his support.

“Mr. Knutson always supported the fire companies and was very generous with donations,” McDowell said.

Rise, fall of EDMC

Knutson, 84, came to Pittsburgh in 1969 when the Education Management Corp., later known as EDMC, took over the venerable Art Institute of Pittsburgh, a small school founded in 1921.

Knutson was named president of EDMC in 1971 and, using the Pittsburgh school as a jumping-off point, began building a national name in for-profit higher education, a market that few previously realized existed.

His wife joined EDMC in 1983. Together, they quietly built EDMC a reputation as one of the more student-oriented players in the growing for-profit higher education sector.

“We had great technology, terrific faculty and great outcomes for our students. There are so many success stories — great photography, industrial design and fashion. It was a great story,” Knutson said.

In 1996, Knutson took the company public.

A decade later, the chain that included the Art Institutes, Brown Mackie College, Argosy University and South University enrolled nearly 80,000 students at sites scattered across the country.

In 2006, Goldman Sachs engineered a $3.4 billion buyout for a group of private investors. And the Knutsons, who boast a blended family of six children and nine grandchildren — it was a second marriage for both, he explained — retired comfortably. He stepped down as chairman and chief executive officer of EDMC, making $132.4 million in stock sales from the company, according to Bloomberg .

He told the Tribune-Review that he is heartbroken at the events that have transpired since then.

At its peak in 2011, EDMC enrolled 160,000 students at brick-and-mortar locations and a variety of online programs. But by then it was fighting a federal whistleblower lawsuit that alleged its growth was fueled by fraudulent recruiting practices, exaggerated job placement claims and loading students with pricey private loans.

Creditors assumed control of the company in 2015 in exchange for erasing $1.3 billion in debt and agreeing to pay more than $95 million to settle the federal lawsuit and another $103 million to settle claims with multiple state attorneys general.

Last year, after selling its remaining schools to a California-based nonprofit group, EDMC filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

“When they acquired (EDMC), they promised all kinds of things,” Knutson said. “They were good at marketing, but they didn’t come through. … They hurt a lot of people. It tears me apart. … It was a great company with wonderful prospects.”

There is no minimum reserve on the Ligonier estate, but those who wish to bid must post a $100,000 refundable deposit and register with Platinum Luxury Auctions no later than 5 p.m., central time, on Jan. 9. Terms of the auction permit remote bidding and stipulate that the property will go to the highest bidder without reserve (a.k.a. “absolute”) and regardless of the high bid price.

Read the full article by Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer, HERE

Buying Here: That house sold for how much?

Pittsburgh is still a hot real estate market. The average housing price was $182,000 and sales were up 7 percent in the third quarter, according to the West Penn Multi-List. Year-end sales had not yet been totaled.

But what about the properties featured in Buying Here? Our annual roundup shows that some affordable homes sold quickly in 2018 while multimillion-dollar estates are still looking for buyers.

Hunting bids

The high bid will take a nearly 200-acre estate in Ligonier’s hunt country that was featured in early December. Originally listed for $7.5 million, Woodmere will be sold in a no reserve auction on Thursday through Platinum Luxury Auctions.

The main house has five bedrooms, five bathrooms, one powder room and 9,310 square feet of living space. A video also shows the four-bedroom guest house, a three-bedroom staff house, a three-car garage and a chicken coop. Along with approximately 7 miles of walking trails, a stream and 10 ponds stocked with trout, bass and catfish, there is a shooting range for clay pigeons.

The no reserve auction will take place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. Real estate auctions are usually held at the property, but in this case the owner is also selling homes in Florida, New Mexico and Colorado.

Trayor Lesnock, a Pittsburgh native who is president of Platinum Luxury Auctions, said about half of the property auctions he handles have a reserve, which means it’s not sold if bids don’t meet or exceed the reserve price.

Bidders can bid in person or by phone but phone bidders must have a representative there and meet these conditions: By 5 p.m. Wednesday, submit a refundable deposit of $100,000 via wire or a cashier’s check, and fill out a terms of sale agreement, which can be found at www.platinumluxuryauctions.com.

“Bidders can also submit an opening bid.  It is not required, but they will receive a 10 percent discount on any opening bid they provide,”  Mr. Lesnock said. “It is applied to your winning bid.”


Read the full Pittsburgh Post Gazette article by Rosa Colucci HERE.

And now up for auction … Local real estate agent and auction house team up to get a north island house sold

Looking for the deal of 2019 when it comes to real estate on the island? While you may need a little more than what is in your coin jar on the kitchen counter, you can still head down to Sunset Pines Circle next Thursday, Jan. 10 and bid on a house that will take your breath away in an auction that has drawn a lot of attention.

The seven-bedroom, six-bath (and three half-baths) home with more than 260 feet of frontage on Little Gasparilla Pass was previously offered for sale at $13.5 million, and is currently listed for $10.9 million through Michael Saunders & Co. Now the property is set for live auction with no reserve through Platinum Luxury Auctions, a Miami-based real estate auction firm.

According to the listing, the property is “situated on 1.43 lushly landscaped acres and sited on the north shore of Boca Grande.”

“This extravagant property offers exceptional privacy and an extensive boat dock—the last permitted dock before entering the Gulf of Mexico … the property offers a courtyard pool entry, large oceanfront yard and expansive interiors.”

The tri-level house was built in 2006 and is approximately 10,500 square feet with 7,500 square feet under air. It features a four-car garage, a very large, unique pool, mosaic tiling, a koi pond and a “cascading water wall comprised of artifacts from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.”

Property taxes last year for the home were $68,586, and it has been on the market for at least 300 days. The current owners purchased the property in 2004 for approximately $3 million, and they did a complete renovation on the house. You can bid on the home at platinumluxuryauctions.com, or get more information at bocagrandebroker.com.


Read the article by Marcy Shorteuse HERE.

Seller Lists Four Luxury Homes For Auction In A Single Week

This is one way to unload a few homes quite quickly. Robert Knutson, the now-retired CEO of the Education Management Corporation—one of the largest for-profit operators of secondary schools and colleges in the U.S.—and his wife Miryam (also a former executive at EDMC) spent their early retirement years buying properties in nearly every climate in the lower 48 and now that they have put down roots in Beverly Hills (as next door neighbors to billionaire Steven Udvar-Hazy, No. 572 on Forbes Billionaires List) they have decided to sell four of their homes at auction rather than wait for each one to sell individually. The homes had been listed on the market at a combined value of $46 million. The two auctions take place via Platinum Luxury Auctions on Thursday, January 10th in Denver and Saturday, 12th in Chicago with each home being listed without reserve. A link to each auction page with more photos and details about each house is in each of the descriptions below.

EDMC started out as a private enterprise but first went public in 1996. Ten years later it became a privately held company when it was bought by Providence Equity Partners and Goldman Sachs for $3.4 billion as the first going-private trade in the for-profit, post-secondary education market. The Knutsons retired from the firm and earned an estimated $132 million from stock sales. EDMC went public once more in 2009 and is still traded on the NASDAQ.

The homes range from a Pueblo Revival in Santa Fe to a modern waterfront in Florida. The home pictured above is the 7 bedroom, 9 bathroom waterfront house on Little Gasparilla Pass in Boca Grande, Florida. It comes with a boat dock that is the last permitted dock before entering the Gulf of Mexico and a number of unique touches, including artifacts from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair along the water wall at the far end of the pool. It had previously been listed for $13.5 million. The auction takes place on January 10th in Chicago at 7pm.

Pictured above is their Santa Fe home that has had an illustrious set of owners ever since it was built in the 1930s for Jack Dempsey, former governor of New Mexico. He subsequently sold it to someone from the Weyerhaeuser timber family and a few generations later an heir to the Martini & Rossi company bought the 11 acre property. It unfortunately fell into disrepair and when the Knutsons bought it they spent a whopping $18 million renovating it from top to bottom with no detail overlooked. Mrs Knutson told Bloomberg, “There are 64 kinds of windows in the house, and every single one is different and had to be special-ordered.” There are also two custom Paul Ferrante chandeliers, two master suites, a clay tennis court and numerous design touches such as the antique Portuguese wall tiles embedded in this solid wood door as seen below. The house originally listed for $11.5 million. The auction takes place on January 12th in Denver at 4pm.

A little further east is this four parcel sale in the Animas Valley of Colorado. Beaumont Ranch encompasses 86 acres of land, with a 7,000 square foot main house and a number of other buildings including several guest cottages, barns and workshops. The main house sits at an elevation of over 6,600 feet and has one-of-a-kind features unique to the area such as stair railings created by local blacksmith, Rod Pickett (see photo below). There are 1,700 feet of the Animas River running through the land, which is known to be a good fishing spot for rainbow trout. Six trout-filled ponds are also on the property. It had been listed for $13.5 million. The auction takes place on January 12th in Denver starting at 4pm.

In Pennsylvania this classic style 5-bedroom, 6-bath house on 198 acres was initially listed for $7.5 million and comes with a 2,900 square foot guest house. The master suite comes with two bedrooms and a private outdoor terrace. Another of the five bedrooms has its own private kitchen and bathroom. The property also has a 2-bedroom staff house, manager’s office, and three barns. There is also a heated dog kennel, shooting range, pheasant pen and nine stocked fish ponds. The auction takes place on January 10th at 7pm.

While the homes all range in climate and design themes, they have a number of things in common. Each of the remodels paid close attention the details staying true to the history and location of each house and they gave every room the full treatment. Not to mention the great views.


Follow Amy Dobson on Twitter @amydobsonRE

Seller Lists Four Luxury Homes For Auction In A Single Week; Combined Valuation Equals $46 Million

This is one way to unload a few homes quite quickly. Robert Knutson, the now-retired CEO of the Education Management Corporation—one of the largest for-profit operators of secondary schools and colleges in the U.S.—and his wife Miryam (also a former executive at EDMC) spent their early retirement years buying properties in nearly every climate in the lower 48 and now that they have put down roots in Beverly Hills (as next door neighbors to billionaire Steven Udvar-Hazy, No. 572 on Forbes Billionaires List) they have decided to sell four of their homes at auction rather than wait for each one to sell individually. The homes had been listed on the market at a combined value of $46 million. The two auctions take place via Platinum Luxury Auctions on Thursday, January 10th in Denver and Saturday, 12th in Chicago with each home being listed without reserve. A link to each auction page with more photos and details about each house is in each of the descriptions below.

Read the full Forbes article by Amy Dobson HERE.

A grand waterfront retreat on auction block

A waterfront retreat on Little Gasparilla Pass in Boca Grande — once offered for $13.5 million but currently listed for $10.9 million — will hit the auction block Jan. 10. Without a reserve. Top bid wins the property.

Risky business, auctioning off multimillion-dollar homes, as one last year illustrates.

The winning bid for Villa Palladio, an opulent four-story Italianate villa on Casey Key, reached $4,375,000 — a tad less than half of the original list price of $8.9 million. The final purchase price went up a bit, to $4.5 million, Sarasota County records show. It’s not like the property fell under the radar. The auction marketing campaign for Villa Palladio generated over 1,600 prospects, over 60 qualified showings and eight registered bidders.

The Boca Grande place, on North Shore of Gasparilla Island in Charlotte County, is impressive. I talked to the owners back in June when the property reached the market.

Bob and Miryam Knutson will be leaving more than a home when a sale closes. “We love the land, the privacy, the location,” Bob said for that earlier column.

They bought the property at 16160 Sunset Pines Circle in 2004 for roughly $3.3 million. They immediately ripped the house down to its core for a total makeover that took three years.

“It was basically new construction,” Bob said.

Miryam grew up in the Caribbean, enjoying the turquoise waters that touched the beaches. “And I was used to that color of water,” she said. She found that same hue off her home’s 260 feet on Little Gasparilla Pass, a rare water color she only found elsewhere in the country off Key West.

The 1.43-acre property sets a varied stage for an outdoor lifestyle. A 12-by-40-foot heated pool and spa serves as the centerpiece of the estate’s courtyard. Striking features include mosaic tiling, a small koi pond, and a cascading water wall made up of artifacts from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Flowering plants accent the courtyard. A cabana, with a steam shower, a built-in lounge area and bar also surround the pool. An al fresco dining area and outdoor kitchen have marble countertops.

Grapefruit, orange, key lime, pineapple, passion fruit and banana trees; native plantings, including silver buttonwood, palmetto and cabbage palm; starburst clerodendrum and coconut palms; ficus hedge; and butterfly garden plantings create a lush landscape — which can be enjoyed from the 3,560-square-feet of terraces and balconies.

The extensive dock, rebuilt after Hurricane Irma, allows Bob to continue his passion for fishing for snook, bluefish and flounder. “It’s a great fishing spot,” he said.

The tri-level interior’s 7,500 square feet under air also impresses. The single-family home has seven bedrooms, all with balconies right outside, six full bathrooms and three halves.

Just one of the two master bedrooms, both 35-by-37-feet, is about the size of my condo.

Compare that with the 25-by-32-foot living room. Suffice to say the kitchen appliances all sport high-end brand names. Just brief descriptions of the property’s custom features cover four pages of small text.

The home’s living quarters are on the second and third floors, leaving the ground floor open to storm surge, should that occur. Hurricane-strength windows, a metal roof and an emergency generator provide more protection.

Carol Stewart of Michael Saunders & Co., the listing agent and a Boca Grande resident, described the property as “Orchestrated to impress and inspire … crafted for both grand social occasions and family memories.”

Platinum Luxury Auctions, a Miami-based real estate auction firm, will stage the live auction. Concierge Auctions, formerly of Sarasota but now based in New York City, held the Casey Key sale.

Want to bid? Register at https://platinumluxuryauctions.com


See the full article by Chris Wille HERE.

Multimillion-dollar Santa Fe property hits auction block this month

The highest-priced home in Santa Fe for 2019 may sell on Jan. 12. The 11-acre Casa Alegre estate in the north foothills will be on the auction block at the Four Seasons Hotel in Denver.

The property’s main feature is a six-bedroom, 6,293-square-foot Pueblo Revival house built in 1930 by former New Mexico Gov. John Dempsey, who led the state from 1943-47.

The property also has three smaller casitas and an assortment of bells and whistles incorporated in the $18 million in renovations done in the 2000s by current owners Robert and Miryam Knutson.

The Knutsons added a clay tennis court with viewing area, along with a swimming pool. They installed new plumbing, electricity, heating and restored interior wood ceilings and finishes.

“We got the best architect who specialized in Pueblo Revival houses and then got curators to work with us to restore the house to perfection,” Miryam Knutson told Bloomberg News earlier this year. “There are 64 kinds of windows in the house and every single one is different, and had to be special-ordered.”

The house has his-and-hers master suites, hers with a fireplace, two terraces and a custom closet with cabinetry, a shoe island and illuminated display cases; his with custom cabinetry and workspace with a built-in desk and one terrace.

The two parcels at 196 Circle Drive (all the residential structures) and 130 Circle Drive (open landscape) are assessed at $4.077 million by the Santa Fe County Assessor’s Office. The Knutsons bought the property in 2004 for about $3.5 million and earlier this year listed it with Barker Realty for $11.5 million, with no takers.

Trayor Lesnock, president of Miami-based Platinum Luxury Auctions, which is auctioning four Knutson properties, believes the gavel will fall somewhere between those amounts.

“It’s certainly not been assessed at the level of the money they have invested, that’s for sure,” said Lesnock, who added he likely won’t be able to establish an estimated winning bid amount until a few days before the auction. “I don’t think it will be anywhere near the list price.”

The auction will have no reserve — no minimum bid. Lesnock said for auctions of this nature, a minimum bid can plant the idea of value in bidders’ heads and perhaps suppress bidding.

The Knutsons had Casa Alegre on the market for about four to six months because of health issues, opting to auction four properties they own in Santa Fe; Durango, Colo.; western Pennsylvania and Boca Grande, Fla. Lesnock will auction off all four, the eastern pair in Chicago on Jan. 10 and Durango and Santa Fe in Denver on Jan. 12.

“I would venture to say, of the four, the Santa Fe property has the most custom finishes on a square foot by square foot basis,” Lesnock said.

Robert Knutson is the retired founder, chairman and chief executive of Education Management Corp., a Pittsburgh-based operator of for-profit post-secondary educational institutions in the United States and Canada.

Former Gov. Dempsey died in 1958 in Washington while serving in Congress. Subsequent owners of Casa Alegre included heirs of the Weyerhaeuser timber family and Martini & Rossi Italian beverage company family. The house had fallen into disrepair before the Knutsons bought it in 2004.

Casa Alegre also has three smaller casitas, the 1,434-square-foot Casita Bonita, the 1,054-square-foot Casita Chiquita and the 1,101-square-foot Casita Dulce. Bonita and Dulce have one bedroom and Chiquita two bedrooms.

Prospective bidders must preregister and submit a refundable $100,000 deposit. Lesnock does not expect a large crowd.

“The buyer pool is already small for each of these [four Knutson] properties,” he said. “There will probably be four to six bidders at the auction.”

Lesnock does not think auctioning a Santa Fe property in Denver will make much difference in the outcome.

“We generally like to do everything on-site,” he said. “We have had some extremely successful auctions off-site. Really, it’s to accommodate the bidders. We haven’t seen [off-site] auctions affect the bidding.”

Couple to auction off four luxury homes with no reserve

The properties were initially on sale for a cumulative price of $46 million

The couple behind the largest for-profit chain of schools in the country is auctioning off four of their luxury homes.

Robert and Miryam Knutson decided to unload the properties about a year and half ago, after Robert contracted a “mystery virus,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Their chain of schools, Education Management Corp., declared chapter 7 bankruptcy earlier in the year.

The homes in Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado and New Mexico were all on the market asking for a combined $46 million, but after a few months they decided to head to the auction block. The homes are being auctioned off on Jan. 10 and 12 without reserve prices.

Over the past year, auctions have become a more frequently-used approach to move properties that aren’t selling.[WSJ]


Read The Real Deal article by Erin Hudson HERE.


Onetime For-Profit School Chairman Auctions Four Luxury Homes

The owners are selling homes in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Colorado that were previously individually listed for a combined $46 million

For years, Robert and Miryam Knutson traveled around the country, splitting their time among homes in four states. But when Mr. Knutson came down with a “mystery virus” 18 months ago, the couple decided to consolidate to a $25 million Los Angeles mansion, and put their four homes on the market individually for a total of $46 million.

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