ISLESBORO, Maine — The former owner of a $10 million island mansion is suing a high-end, Florida-based auctioneer after his home sold for a meager $1.375 million last June.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Waldo County Superior Court, contends that the auction, organized by Daniel DeCaro and DeCaro Luxury Auctions in Naples, Florida, was a “disaster” and “fiasco.”
John Blin, a semiretired financier living in Hong Kong, formerly owned an estate at 180 Abrams Mountain Road on Islesboro. He claims that DeCaro told him there would be no need to set a reserve amount, or minimum acceptable bid, prior to the auction.
Blin is suing DeCaro for negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and violating the Maine Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Unfair Trade Practices Act, as well as negligence.
Only two or three potential bidders showed up at the auction, according to Blin’s attorney. DeCaro allegedly reassured Blin that, in spite of the small turnout, there still wouldn’t be a need to set a minimum bid, and the home likely would still sell for $4 million or $5 million.
The home was listed at $10.9 million last year when Forbes magazine pinpointed it as the most expensive mansion for sale in Maine. But at the June auction, a former running store CEO cast a winning bid of $1.25 million, plus a 10 percent commission, according to the lawsuit.
After DeCaro took home his $400,000 in marketing fees and commission, Blin netted just $985,488 from the sale. Blin had spent more than $10 million building his “dream home” perched on a cliff overlooking Penobscot Bay on Islesboro, according to his attorney, Dana Strout of Rockport.
A message left Monday afternoon for Wendell Large, the Maine attorney representing DeCaro, was not returned.
Over the years, Blin claims to have spent $12 million to $14 million in all on the 16-acre property. That investment included extensive work on the grounds surrounding the 8,000-square-foot, 10-room home with a fully furnished wine cellar and fully stocked walk-in cigar humidor.
The logistics of keeping up with the property while living in China eventually became too much for Blin, according to his attorney, and he decided to put the house on the market.
The lawsuit argues that DeCaro “preyed upon” Blin by claiming his firm was the only one that could adequately handle the sale. It also claims that DeCaro didn’t do adequate research to learn about the history of home sales on Islesboro, where no home has sold for more than $3 million in the past decade and the most any home ever sold for was $5.2 million prior to the recession.
After Blin served DeCaro with notice that he planned to file a complaint under the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, DeCaro emailed Blin stating that Blin had built a home on a remote island that did not appeal to most buyers due to its location and design, according to the suit.
Islesboro can only be reached by public ferry, private boat or small aircraft. Part of Waldo County, the island has a year-round population of more than 600 residents, but for the past century also has been known for attracting well-heeled summer visitors. Among them are Hollywood couple John Travolta and Kelly Preston, who in 1991 bought Gripsholm Manor, George W. C. Drexel’s former estate near Decker Point.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.
BDN writer Bill Trotter contributed to this report.