The Nouveau Poor

Five years’ work brought in around $100,000 for a couple in Florida, the Wall Street Journal reports. The pair had spent that much time, and $8 million, building a mansion and vacation home in Vero Beach and decorating the properties with, among other things, what should’ve remained props in Scarface: an elephant head, gold-and-leopard-skin dining room chairs, an Italian speedboat, two jet skis, eight rare parrots, statues of Muhammed Ali, a stuffed hyena, a tiki bar, stuffed grizzly bears,  and a red Ferrari.

Richard Peacock, the aptly-named homeowner, was forced into the auction when income from his construction business and commercial rental properties dried up.

Auctions like this are increasingly common as the fabulously wealthy become less so, and Mr. Peacock isn’t the only one feeling the pinch: Chicago outfit Spectrem Group reports that almost half of all Americans worth over $1 million have lost an average of 30% of their money in this economy. For many, the changes mean sharp reductions in operating expenses (like Mr. Peacock’s $100,000-a-year upkeep of his properties, and his $50,000-a-year property taxes).

In a rare showing of Floridian good taste, the fabulously gauche properties, and their attendant decorations, failed to fetch what the Peacocks had hoped for. The couple pulled most of the items off the block and cancelled the auction when their mansion failed to entice bids over $5 million. Said Mr. Peacock, the man who built an ocean-front mansion with an aviary, salon, barbershop, and sports-car garage, of the event’s failure to raise as much as he’d hoped: “I guess we’ll try to just keep hanging on.”

Mr. Peacock did not comment on whether parting with a gold-and-leopard-skin dining set was an economic necessity, or just good taste.


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