Even in Palm Beach, the billionaires’ hideaway in southeast Florida, 1071 North Ocean Blvd. stands out as a monument to excess. At more than 35,000 square feet, the mansion was designed to feature 16 bathrooms, a gym, barber shop, theater, and library. Last year, the property reportedly sold to an entity tied to William Lauder, a billionaire heir to the Estée Lauder makeup fortune, for an astonishing $110 million. But the palatial estate is apparently not up to his family’s standards. On Wednesday, the town approved a plan to tear down the home—built just six years ago—to the dirt.
The decision has agitated some locals. “I just have a really weird feeling in my stomach about it. I think it’s about the complete waste,” one prominent resident told The Daily Beast, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to rankle an ultra-rich neighbor. “I mean normal people don’t do that. It’s kind of gross.”
Another resident, third-generation Palm Beacher K.T. Catlin, described herself as “pro-development and redevelopment.” But even in her mind, she said, the trend of “constantly tearing down to just build bigger, I question that.”
Known to some locals as “The Castle,” the estate was completed in 2016, and it riled up members of the community from the outset. Of particular concern, the Palm Beach Daily News previously noted, was the immense size and the way it ate up a huge percentage of its 2-acre lot.
The original owners, lawyers turned charter school consultants Danielle and Vahan Gureghian, narrowly won approval to build their “dream home” in 2011, the outlet said. They never actually lived in it, instead putting the property on the market for more than $80 million in 2015, before construction was completed. The Gureghians sold it to another party in 2019 for $40.9 million.
Now that Lauder seems to have assumed ownership, there is anxious speculation within the community about whether he might build an even larger colossus on the site, since he reportedly also owns an adjacent empty lot.
Victoria “Cooky” Donaldson, who lives in midtown Palm Beach and described herself as neutral about the demolition, said opinions about the project are split: “Some think what’s going up will be better, others are infuriated by it.”
When the plans were first announced, she said, detractors reacted with “shock” at the extravagance of a nine-figure teardown. “The stepping up of the grandiosity, this takes it to a whole new plane.”
A Palm Beach official told The Daily Beast that the new owners have yet to submit a proposal for what they want to build after the demolition. One of Lauder’s attorneys, meanwhile, declined to comment.
Even before the recent controversy, tensions in Palm Beach had been simmering for many months: between wealthy snowbirds and year-round locals, and between estate owners (whose identities are often obscured behind corporate entities) and the more modest homeowners.
Newly constructed houses are built higher than many existing properties due to federal regulations. As a result, during intense storms, water from the modern mansions pours directly onto neighbors' lots, multiple residents said.
According to Catlin, construction trucks have also repeatedly damaged cars and properties, and crews have been known to work earlier or later than regulations permit, and to sneak in on weekends.
Furthermore, there are concerns the Lauder project may exacerbate traffic problems, which already can extend for miles. “There’s only two roads,” Donaldson said. During Donald Trump’s presidency—when visits to his Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago crippled traffic flow—three homes were under construction near her. “I couldn't get out of my driveway for four years,” she said.
Adding to the frustration: The soon-to-be demolished home was at least partially under construction for years. “They keep renovating it and re-renovating it,” Catlin said. Now, with a rebuild, some people are upset to have “X number of more years to look at and deal with this.”
Donaldson recalled growing up in Palm Beach decades ago, when the largest homes were “big, but God, I mean, nothing like what we're looking at now. And nothing was really torn down to make way for just another huge, enormous house.”
Perhaps the starkest illustration of that change is underway six miles south, where billionaire Ken Griffin is constructing his own version of Versailles: a multi-lot estate that stretches across 1,400 feet of coastline. That project has also aggravated community members, some of whom are billionaires themselves.
Despite the recent flare-up, the Lauder family has a positive reputation in the community, multiple residents said. William Lauder, who is based in New York City, according to his LinkedIn page, serves as chairman of the family cosmetics business. Forbes reports that he also owns property in Aspen and Westchester, New York; the outlet pegs his net worth at $3.1 billion.
Earlier this year, Lauder made news when he reportedly settled with a former “mistress” who had sued him in 2018, alleging that he had reneged on an agreement to pay for her $7 million Los Angeles mansion. According to a 2010 Forbes story, the pair had a child together in 2007, while Lauder was married and serving as CEO of Estée Lauder. They hashed out a private deal in which the woman agreed “to move to California, refrain from any contact with the Lauder family and conceal the identity of the father—even from the child.” (After he was sued in 2018, Lauder reportedly filed his own lawsuit declaring that the woman had violated their deal “several times over.”)
The tabloid intrigue apparently isn’t a factor in the Palm Beach controversy. One resident said frustration about the demolition is less about this one property than about the stratum of wealth engulfing the island and irreparably changing its character. “It’s a symptom of a much larger problem,” the person said, invoking adjectives—”garish” and “gauche”—that one might apply to a sequined maxi dress. “I think we’re losing our town.”