By STEPHANIE MURPHY
Daily News Business and Real Estate Writer
Mansion builder Frank McKinney says he may have underestimated the situation when he predicted in mid-May that his latest project would sell by Christmas.
Only 25 days after a special-effects luau in which the flamboyant McKinney launched fireworks from his fingers using a trigger hidden in a glove, -- his renovated oceanfront home at 3223 N. Ocean Blvd. in Gulf Stream was under contract. Listed for $15 million, it closed Monday for $12.5 million, the fourth time in five years that its selling price set a town record.
"I was way off on this one," McKinney said Wednesday. "I said we'd sell by the end of the year. This time frame speaks volumes to the strength of the ultra-high-end market and the brand that we've created in our specific product. . . With this much ocean frontage and land combined with this quality house, it's gonna sell -- regardless of the state of the economy."
The buyer is consumer products executive Jeff Levitetz and his wife, Debra, of Boca Raton. Levitetz is chief executive officer of Purity Wholesale Grocers Inc., a billion-dollar-plus seller of groceries, health and beauty items, and pharmaceutical products. The couple has lived in St. Andrews Country Club for 10 years.
Mark Nestler of the Boca Raton-based Nestler-Poletto Realty was the selling agent, and Catherine Jorgens of J.C. DeNiro International Realty, Delray Beach, had the listing.
Said Nestler, "This house is extraordinary, and I knew Jeff and his wife were interested in something very special," Nestler said. "The day after the grand opening, I went to look at the house and told Jeff, `You should take a look even if you don't buy it, just for the education.' "
The house was built in 1995 by Gerry Lepkanich, a syndication and media buyer (Saturday Night Live) who sold it in January 1998 for a town record of $7.8 million to Carl DeSantis of Palm Beach, the founder and former chairman of Rexall-Sundown.
In August 2000, DeSantis sold it to computer executive Daniel Gittleman for $8.65 million, another Gulf Stream record. McKinney, through a trust set up by his attorneys at the Palm Beach law firm of Elk, Bankier, Palmer & Christu, paid $9 million for the house in November.
The 17,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style house sits on 1.5 acres. The land is 430 feet deep with 200 feet of beachfront.
The three-story house features concrete floors and 240 pilings under the house, the porte-cochere, the driveway and cabana. The floor plan includes a climate-controlled 500-bottle wine room, library with mahogany built-ins, an oceanfront master suite with 1,500 square feet of space, six additional bedroom suites with private balconies, nine full baths and three half-baths, a large gourmet kitchen with a day office and separate catering kitchen, ocean-view family room, fitness center, game room with billiards table, six-car marble garage, six fireplaces and two staff suites.
The grounds feature specimen trees and abundant landscaping, a poolside guest house, a 22-by-50-foot heated swimming pool, a lighted tennis court with underground irrigation system and outdoor juice bar, and a covered summer kitchen and entertainment area. On the third-floor terrace is a sun deck with whirlpool spa.
McKinney and his wife, Nilsa, an interior decorator, spent five months updating the contemporary decor and furnishings.
The McKinneys' next speculation project involves building an oceanfront mansion from scratch on a one1-acre site at 6275 N. Ocean Blvd. in Ocean Ridge, he said.
"We're starting at once. We're done with the design and engineering," McKinney said. The preconstruction price for the 9,231-square-foot house is $9.4 million.
Buoyed by his track record and buyer demand, McKinney made another forecast.
"I'll be surprised if we don't sell during preconstruction."