The Billionaire Battle in the Bahamas

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The December issue of Vanity Fair featured a big piece of juicy gossip focusing on real estate battles of the rich and famous. At the center of it all, there are real environmental concerns. Although the article does not stress the point, it is mind-boggling how much damage some people can get away with in countries (of which they are not citizens) that serve as their back yards, especially if they have millions to make authorities turn a blind eye to the damage. Eric Konigsberg summarizes the situation like this: “Peter Nygard is a hard-partying retail tycoon, whose estate is fit for a Mayan emperor. Louis Bacon is a buttoned-up hedge-fund king, whose passion is conservation. Both are locked in an eight-year legal war with each other that has turned each man’s paradise into hell.” Here are excerpts:

The two men are next-door neighbors in Lyford Cay, a gated community on New Providence, an island in the Bahamas, and for years it had been a peaceful adjacency. Because both of them happen to be billionaires, it is a picturesque driveway, lined by casuarina trees and triple Alexander palms, 200 feet north of a stunning body of water known as Clifton Bay and 100 feet south of an even more stunning vista upon the Atlantic Ocean.

It is less a driveway than a road—but also a portion of road that is shared by both neighbors and nobody else, owing to how it cuts right through one man’s property and ends at the other man’s, which occupies the westernmost tip of the island. And we’re talking about a land of eight-figure beachfront properties, where the houses are very close to each other—where one man’s dining room is only about 200 feet from the other’s revolving acrylic discotheque floor and the glass walls that enclose it with a steady cascade of water.

An “easement” is what the driveway’s creator, the developer E. P. Taylor, a Canadian brewing tycoon, termed this shared passage when he established Lyford Cay in 1955. (The road itself he saw fit to name E. P. Taylor Drive.) But just as one man’s driveway is another man’s easement, one neighbor’s cocktail party is another’s sleepless night due to the fact that there are 2,000 Bahamians—plus a lot of young women from islands throughout the Atlantic, not to mention Europe—whooping it up at the topless bacchanal next door. [. . .]

“Nygard likes the idea that people think they’re going to a separate island when they go to his place,” says Louis Bacon, a titan of New York finance and the neighbor who constructed the strategic no-parking zone. “Now it kind of looks like what the English call a ha-ha: the road drops and it feels more private. It’s a better entrance for his guests and better for me too.”

But that was then, and this is now. And somehow, what began in 2007 with a bit of irritation over runoff has escalated to a battle royal encompassing no fewer than 16 legal actions between Nygard and Bacon and their associates, in which both sides are claiming damages in the tens of millions of dollars and lobbing allegations of activities that include vandalism, bribery, insider trading, arson, murder, destruction of the fragile seabed, and having a close association with the Ku Klux Klan.

It has reached a point where neither man, though each used to consider Lyford Cay his rightful home, spends much time there anymore. Nygard, unable to obtain government permits to rebuild his six-acre, Mayan-inspired compound after an electrical fire in 2009 demolished most of the structures—including the 32,000-square-foot “grand hall,” with its 100,000-pound glass ceiling—has been left to live out of his study when he does visit, and has stopped throwing parties altogether. He blames the man next door for all of it, citing a string of environmental-degradation suits that Bacon has filed against him in court. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/12/peter-nygard-louis-bacon-legal-battle-bahamas

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