Banker Eyes Val Verde

Montecito’s historic Val Verde estate-once a retreat for the nation’s gay cultural elite-could be sold by the end of August to Russian banker Sergey Grishin for $15.2 million. None of Grishin’s agents would comment on the pending sale, stating it would be premature to do so. The sale was precipitated by the declaration of bankruptcy earlier this year by the estate’s owner, the Val Verde Foundation, a nonprofit organization initially formed by former owner Warren Austin to open the estate’s historic gardens to public tours. After Austin’s efforts to secure the necessary permits were rejected by the Board of Supervisors, the foundation incurred serious debt by securing refinancing not once but twice. Without a steady stream of income sufficient to pay its debts, the foundation has struggled to stay financially afloat.

The bottom really fell out for the foundation when the court replaced Gail Jensen, Val Verde executive director, with bankruptcy attorneys David Farmer and Peter Susi. Jensen had sought to host a sale of Val Verde items, including artwork, without getting proper clearance.

It remains unclear what Grishin’s plans are for the historic property, the famed gardens of which were designed by noted landscape architects Bertram Goodhue and Lockwood de Forest. Bankruptcy court proceedings on the proposed sale are scheduled for August 18.

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