This story was originally published in January 2015 as part of the column, “What Do They Own?”, which evaluated the property holdings of newsworthy persons.
Financier Jeffrey Epstein became a registered sex offender in 2008, when he was convicted of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution at his Palm Beach Mansion. Epstein is once again in the news for charges of sex trafficking, following an “investigation into allegations he exploited dozens of minors for sex,” according to the New York Times.
Epstein manages a hedge fund based in the U.S. Virgin Islands and has a home base in Palm Beach, Florida. (As part of a 2008 plea deal, Epstein “pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges and was required to register as a sex offender” in Miami, New York City, and the Virgin Islands—though not in New Mexico, where he also owns a ranch. As per Vox, Epstein served just 13 months “in the private wing of a Palm Beach County jail” and was “granted work release to go to a ‘comfortable office’ for 12 hours a day, six days a week.”)
New York City prosecutors are focusing on Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse on East 71st Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues.
Here is a deep dive into all of the billionaire’s real estate holdings:
The Herbert N. Straus Mansion in New York, New York
Often referred to as one of the largest townhouses in Manhattan—at 21,000 square feet and seven stories, 45,000 square feet and eight stories, or 50,000 square feet and nine stories, depending on who's describing it and when—the stone mansion at 9 East 71st Street was built in 1933. It was designed by society architect Horace Trumbauer for Herbert N. Straus, one of the heirs to the Macy's department store fortune, who died before it was completed.
It's been said that "entire 18th-century rooms were purchased to be shipped to New York and installed in the new mansion," and the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an exhibit in its period rooms collection with fixtures from a French hotel acquired by Herbert's wife Therese in a timeline that would fit the mansion's construction. She donated them to the Met in 1943, a year before the mansion was converted into a convalescent home, after the Straus family donated it to the Roman Catholic Archbishopric of New York. These photos offer an interesting picture of the conversion process, which shows much of the interior fixtures stripped away.
In 1961, the mansion became home to the Birch Wathen School, which it remained until Leslie H. Wexner, the founding chairman of the Limited Inc., bought it in 1989 for $13,200,000. Wexner hired architect Thierry Despont and interior designer John Stefanidis to help gut the 40-room home, showing it off in the December 1995 issue of Architectural Digest (sadly, the magazine's online archives don't go back that far). In 1996, the New York Times referred to the sumptuously decorated, expensively renovated pied-à-terre as the latest "puzzling" "status symbol of the ultra rich," when it reported that Wexner never spent more than a few months in the home.
According to the Times, Visitors described a bathroom reminiscent of James Bond movies: Hidden beneath a stairway, lined with lead to provide shelter from attack and supplied with closed-circuit television screens and a telephone, both concealed in a cabinet beneath the sink. The house also has a heated sidewalk, a luxurious provision that explains why, while snow blankets the rest of the Eastern Seaboard, the Wexner house (and Bill Cosby's house across the street) remains opulently snow-free.
In 1995, Wexner turned the home over to Epstein, who was his protege and financial advisor because, on the face of it, his new wife "expressed greater enthusiasm for bringing up their two young children in Columbus, Ohio." Some say that Epstein paid just a dollar for the mansion.
Epstein then undertook his own renovation, not wanting "to live in another person's house." He is said to have spent $10,000,000 redoing the place. In 2007, when model Maximilia Cordero filed suit against Epstein for statutory rape and sexual assault (the suit was later dismissed), her lawyer included a description of what has by now become a legendary piece of decor chez Epstein: "[The] defendant gave plaintiff a tour of his mansion, showing her a huge crystal staircase with a huge crystal ball by the railing, ceiling chandeliers, a lounge room with red chairs, a statute [sic] of a dog with a statute [sic] of dog feces next to it.”
Vicky Ward, in her 2003 Vanity Fair profile of Epstein, memorably captured the experience of touring the residence:
The entrance hall is decorated not with paintings but with row upon row of individually framed eyeballs; these, the owner tells people with relish, were imported from England, where they were made for injured soldiers. Next comes a marble foyer, which does have a painting, in the manner of Jean Dubuffet … but the host coyly refuses to tell visitors who painted it. In any case, guests are like pygmies next to the nearby twice-life-size sculpture of a naked African warrior. ...Tea is served in the "leather room," so called because of the cordovan-colored fabric on the walls.
The chairs are covered in a leopard print, and on the wall hangs a huge, Oriental fantasy of a woman holding an opium pipe and caressing a snarling lionskin. Under her gaze, plates of finger sandwiches are delivered to Epstein and guests by the menservants in white gloves.
Upstairs, to the right of a spiral staircase, is the "office," an enormous gallery spanning the width of the house. Strangely, it holds no computer. Computers belong in the "computer room" (a smaller room at the back of the house), Epstein has been known to say. The office features a gilded desk (which Epstein tells people belonged to banker J. P. Morgan), 18th-century black lacquered Portuguese cabinets, and a nine-foot ebony Steinway "D" grand. On the desk, a paperback copy of the Marquis de Sade's The Misfortunes of Virtue was recently spotted.
Covering the floor, Epstein has explained, "is the largest Persian rug you'll ever see in a private home—so big, it must have come from a mosque." Amid such splendor, much of which reflects the work of the French decorator Alberto Pinto, who has worked for Jacques Chirac and the royal families of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, there is one particularly startling oddity: a stuffed black poodle, standing atop the grand piano. "No decorator would ever tell you to do that," Epstein brags to visitors. "But I want people to think what it means to stuff a dog." People can't help but feel it's Epstein's way of saying that he always has the last word.
In 2001, the New York Post reported that Epstein and Prince Andrew celebrated the by-then-registered sex offender's release from jail with a party at the Upper East Side mansion.
Little Saint James in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Epstein owns the entire 70-acre island of Little Saint James, which has its own Wikipedia page. (The U.S. Virgin islands is also where his money management firm is based.) The Daily Mirror recently flew a helicopter over what they dub the "isle of sin," and came back with some photos of what Epstein has built there: A colonnaded villa-style compound designed by luxury resort and hotel designer Edward Tuttle, with a large library, a cinema, surrounding cabanas, and a detached Japanese bathhouse.
The island is where Epstein's alleged "sex slave" Virginia Roberts claimed he made her take part in orgies. Over the years, it's hosted the conferences held by the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, which have drawn the likes of Stephen Hawking. Court papers claim that at other times, visitors included "prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well known prime minister and other world leaders." Roberts claims she met Bill Clinton once on the island, when he was there to dine with Epstein.
Compound in Florida
Epstein's Palm Beach mansion, once valued at $6,800,000, was at the center of the undercover investigation that eventually led to Epstein pleading guilty to a single state charge of soliciting prostitution, becoming a registered sex offender, and serving 13 months out of an 18-month sentence.
According to a rather lurid Daily Beast article published in 2010, a police search of the property turned up: large, framed photos of nude young girls, and similar images stashed in an armoire and on the computers seized at the house (although police found only bare cables where other computers had been). Some bathrooms were stocked with soap in the shape of sex organs, and various sex toys, such as a "twin torpedo" vibrator and creams and lubricants available at erotic specialty shops, were stowed near the massage tables set up in several rooms upstairs.
Zorro Ranch in Stanley, New Mexico
In 1993, Epstein purchased a 7,500-acre ranch in Stanley, New Mexico, from the late former New Mexico governor Bruce King. He named the ranch "Zorro," and proceeded to build a 26,700-square-foot hilltop mansion that was once said to be the largest home in the state, and has been described as a "stone fortress."
A 1995 article in The New Mexican said that Epstein's initial plans for the residence described a main house that was similar to a Mexican hacienda, with an open-air entry into a courtyard with high-ceiling hallways, stone columns and a central fountain. The living room would measure about 2,100-square-feet, larger than the average house in Santa Fe County. The home was supposed to have an elevator, eight bathrooms, four fireplaces and three bedrooms. According to more recent report, Epstein received a county permit to build a small airplane hangar and air strip on the ranch.
Epstein has been reported as saying his New Mexico home "makes the town house look like a shack." According to records accessed on Property Shark, the structures on the property were last appraised in 2013 at $18,186,406.
In a court filing in Florida from 2015, Roberts named Zorro Ranch as one of the place she was sexually abused by Epstein, and the place she was forced to have sex with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
Apartment in Paris, France
Epstein owns an apartment on Paris’s ritzy Avenue Foch. According to sources cited by NBC New York, “Epstein was flying from Paris to New York on Saturday and was arrested at Teterboro Airport.”
Finally, Epstein owns a Boeing 727 plane, and as Vox points out, “Epstein’s accusers have claimed that his considerable financial resources and access to private planes have made it so the sentence and being a registered sex offender have had little effect on his daily life and activities.” Epstein was well-known to have hosted his famous friends on his jet: One well-documented example is from September of 2002, when former President Bill Clinton took a weeklong tour of South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, and Mozambique to promote anti-AIDS efforts alongside actor Kevin Spacey. It’s a twisted web: As Mother Jones notes, “one of Epstein’s lawyers during his criminal case was none other than Kenneth Starr, whose investigation in the Clinton White House produced the Lewinsky scandal.”