MIAMI — Pssst. Wanna buy an island?
Among the many earthly possessions being sold off by the executors of Jeffrey Epstein’s estate are not one but two private Caribbean islands he owned.
They’re caught in a tug-of-war between the estate, which says it is strapped for cash, and the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, who is making a move on all assets that once belonged to Epstein.
McClatchy and the Miami Herald have learned there are multiple people interested in Little St. James and Great St. James, the two cays owned by the disgraced financier, the latter obtained by Epstein under questionable circumstances.
The properties are zoned for residential, not hotel, usage and prospective buyers seek a private island-estate as did Epstein and British businessman Richard Branson, who owns an island 34 miles away in the British Virgin Islands.
Some parties interested in the Epstein islands have gone as far as to sign non-disclosure agreements with the estate in hopes of making an offer.
“There are people that are quite interested and very qualified to buy the islands, and I have some clients that have already visited the islands,” confirmed April Newland, whose Newland Real Estate is well established in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She could not provide any further details because of the non-disclosure agreement she has signed.
That interest from buyers makes last Thursday’s news even more shocking — that the estate had run out of cash reserves to pay as promised into the Epstein Victims Compensation Fund, which began operating last June.
Epstein estate lawyers note that more than $87 million has been paid into the fund, more than $55 million going to victims. But the estate is hobbled at the moment in its ability to raise more money by selling the two islands, collectively valued by the estate between $48 million and $79 million. That’s because of liens imposed on the estate by Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George.
She brought a civil racketeering suit against the estate and its co-executors in January 2020, and her sign-off is needed for many large-scale money transfers to take place.
“No serious buyer is interested in signing a contract on a multimillion-dollar property that, because of the attorney general’s existing liens, cannot be sold to it,” said Daniel H. Weiner, a lawyer working on behalf of the estate. “In addition, in order to ensure that the estate receives maximum value in a sale, the estate would engage a broker, conduct extensive marketing, and obtain as many offers as the market will generate. The Co-Executors are not interested in incurring substantial estate costs for marketing a property that cannot be sold.”
Weiner wouldn’t comment on specific offers but said the estate “has received expressions of interest from numerous parties and 2-3 bona fide offers on those properties” but the sale of the properties “is impossible unless and until the USVI attorney general agrees to lift her liens on them.”
Attorney General George did not return requests for comment, but in an emergency motion filed Thursday to a probate judge, sought an immediate freeze of the estate’s properties and cash, taking away remaining discretion on how Epstein’s assets are sold off. The move followed word from the compensation fund’s administrator, Jordana Feldman, that the estate had failed to replenish funds used to compensate victims, forcing the fund to suspend any further agreements to compensate victims.
“If the Co-Executors had properly managed the estate’s assets and its expenditures, or even promptly communicated any liquidity issues, the estate’s assets and obligations could have been managed in a way that would have avoided this default at the expense of Epstein’s victims,” George wrote, accusing the estate of mismanaging assets by paying its own lawyers’ fees and those of people alleged to been involved with or have knowledge of alleged sex trafficking by Epstein.
George also accused the estate of squandering money on landscaping for the estate’s unused properties and maintenance on unused aircraft like Epstein’s Gulfstream 550, which sold for $10.6 million in December.
The accusation struck a nerve with the estate, since both the attorney general and the probate courts have reviewed prior estate expenses.
“Many of the expenses the attorney general now challenges — including for the required upkeep of aircraft and residences — are essential to maximizing their market value; as but one example, the estate would not have been able to successfully sell its G550 aircraft without first performing required maintenance to keep that plane airworthy,” Weiner said.
The Epstein estate must sell off properties across the globe. Beyond the two island properties, Epstein owned a luxury pad in Paris, a ski cabin in Colorado, a ranch in New Mexico and a now-infamous mansion in Manhattan across from the storied Frick art museum. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the asking price for the Upper East Side property had dropped from $88 million to $65 million.
Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion, with an asking price of $22 million, seemed to have a buyer late last year when developer Todd Michael Glaser acknowledged he had approval to tear it down and replace the bland outdated building.
But Weiner, the estate attorney, confirmed that the sale has yet to close because of lawsuits from third parties over disputed ownership of the deed.
The estate last week released documents that showed it had also made payments late last year of $190 million for estate taxes owed to the U.S. government.