Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, appear to have paid $1.25 million for a five-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot house in the South Side Hyde Park neighborhood through a land trust on April 4.
Seattle attorney Christopher Carletti, who frequently represents the Gates family in property transactions, is listed on the Hyde Park property’s deed as the trustee for the trust that purchased the Hyde Park home. Carletti declined to respond to numerous requests for comment.
The purchase deed for the Hyde Park home states that its property tax bills will be sent to a second-floor office unit in a suburban Seattle office park. The sole occupant of that suburban Seattle office suite is the Gates family's private business interests.
If Gates, whom Forbes magazine recently called the second wealthiest person in the world with an estimated $90 billion net worth, is indeed the owner, he would become the richest person ever to own property in the Chicago area.
The reason for the purchase of the three-story house could not be determined, although its proximity to the University of Chicago — it’s just three houses from campus — and the fact that the Gateses’ son, Rory, is college-age may offer a clue.
The Hyde Park house, which is more than a century old, has been completely rebuilt, with only the exterior shell remaining. It has 4½ baths, a new roof, new windows, new wood floors, video surveillance with five exterior cameras, eight-foot doors on the first and second floors, a kitchen with quartz countertops, built-in Viking appliances and custom cabinets, a breakfast area off the kitchen, heated floors in the rec room on the ground floor, two new furnaces, two 260-square-foot brick terraces and a new brick garage that holds 3½ cars.
The house first came on the market in 2016 for $1.3 million and then actually underwent a price increase to $1.395 million. The sellers cut its asking price to $1.345 million in January, and it stayed at that price until the home was purchased through the trust in early April.
Listing agent Shirley Walker of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Koenig Rubloff said she was not aware of the identity of the buyer of the Hyde Park house. The agent who represented the buyer, Dana Gerstenschlager, initially said that he was unaware that the Gateses were the buyers and claimed that the buyers were from a different Western state than Washington. In a subsequent interview, however, Gerstenschlager declined to comment altogether.
Representatives of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not respond to multiple inquiries for comment.
Bill and Melinda Gates’ residential real estate portfolio includes their principal home — a 50,050-square-foot mansion in Medina, Wash. — as well as mansions in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. and in Indian Wells, Calif., among other properties. In recent years, they also bought an entire street in Wellington, Fla. for a reported $37 million.
While Bill and Melinda Gates would be the wealthiest Chicago-area property owners in history, they’re not the only megabillionaires ever to take part in Chicago-area residential real estate activity. In 2004 and 2005, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who is ranked No. 10 on Forbes’ 2018 billionaires list with an estimated net worth of $58.5 billion, provided three mortgages to the owner of a single-family house on North Mohawk Street in Lincoln Park, which sold in 2008 for $3.95 million. Real estate sources at the time indicated that Ellison, who provided the mortgages through his Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Octopus Holding limited partnership, was making those loans for a Chicago-based relative.
Illinois’ wealthiest person, Citadel hedge fund founder Ken Griffin, ranked No. 172 on the Forbes billionaires list, with an estimated net worth of $9 billion.
AS REPORTED BY THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE