Lady (Mary) Fairfax's Fairwater, Double Bay home to be sold

Lady (Mary) Fairfax's Fairwater, Double Bay home to be sold
Title TattleDecember 7, 2020

Australia's most expensive home has hit the market which has reignited the optimistic obsession about a $100 million sale.

It's the Double Bay offering by the executors of the late Lady (Mary) Fairfax. 

The home, Fairwater, has been in the Fairfax media dynasty family since 1901 when Sir James Oswald Fairfax paid £5,350.

The two-storey, late Victorian mansion - which was designed by architect J. Horbury Hunt for stockbroker, Francis Joseph in 1881, is set on five subdividable blocks on exclusive Seven Shillings Beach. 

There will be no immediate formal website marketing for the home that dates back to 1881, but interested parties will be led through the landmark home by Christie's International agent Ken Jacobs.

Setting the benchmark, Jacobs sold the current national record setter, the neighbouring Elaine, for $71 million last year to billionaire Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar and wife Kim Jackson.

Fairfax Media has wrongly reported the listing went to Sotheby's.

Fellow Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes will no doubt be on Jacob's radar as a propsective buyer. He recently sold his Braelyn, his Centennial Park trophy, for $16.5 million.

James Packer, who sold his Vaucluse home La Mer for a record $70 million in 2016, Australia's second biggest sale, is unlikely to be interested despite offloading his Bondi triplex for $29 million earlier this year, given his desire to have a Barangaroo apartment as his bolthole for his rare trips back to Sydney.

Lady (Mary) Fairfax's Fairwater, Double Bay home to be sold
Source: SMH 07/08/2015

The wayward $100 million price estimate was based on extrapolating the 53-metre beach frontage premium to the entire 6,900 square metre land holding, with the New South Head Road frontage clearly unlikely to warrant the Seven Shillings beachfront premium.

The SMH headline suggested $100 million while the article speculated as high as $112 million.

The Fairwater listing today has immediately triggered a fresh bout of unsourced $100 million plus speculation.

The market has been tested before, but came up wanting as Aussie John Symond's opulent Point Piper mansion, once dubbed 'Aussie Stadium', was touted as having $100 million buyer interest from China, however the Aussie Home Loans founder opted against the sale.

Phoneix Acres, in Vaucluse, sold for $65.25 million last year, having been listed with initial record setting hope.

Fairwater is the largest privately-owned harbour side landholding, spanning 11,210 sqm.

"Fairwater represents an extraordinary opportunity to acquire Australia’s most desirable residential holding," Jacobs said.

"The property’s appeal reflects its unquestionable position as Australia’s most revered and significant home. 

"It is remarkable that an estate offering such rare and unrepeatable features still exists in Australia today; this opportunity will not come again.

"A revered harbour side estate of this size, 5.5 kilometres from the CBD of a major international city is rare by any standard.

"Fairwater is a world class showpiece offering unprecedented attributes of historical significance, design circa 1882 by famed architect John Horbury Hunt."

Nine years later there were additions completed in the Arts and Craft style.

No price expectation or sales date have been issued, however Jacobs will be hoping to sell it for quicker than Elaine which took three years to sell.

The house is in better condition than next door, and it has often been referred to as likely to fetch more than Elaine. Jacobs will be hoping for a quicker sale than Elaine, which took three years to sell. Fairwater is 4100 sqm larger than Elaine.

Lady (Mary) Fairfax's Fairwater, Double Bay home to be sold

No formal price guide was ever offered on the 2013 listing of Elaine, but an absurd $100 million calculation published on its 2013 marketing debut in the Fairfax press cruelled its initially sale prospects. 


Lady (Mary) Fairfax's Fairwater, Double Bay home to be sold
Source: SMH 06/09/18

For a brief time, the property was to be gifted to the people of NSW, but this proposition was later ditched.

"What is Fairwater without the garden, it's just another big old house," she said in 1990 when faced with $350,000 annual land taxes.

By 1996 Lady Fairfax said a trust of seven was being established to oversee the estate, headed by her close friend, the former chairman of National Australia Bank, Sir Rupert Clarke. 

Lady Fairfax made the announcement at the 1996 Monaco National Day celebrations but later declined to comment on her intended gift.

She had moved into Fairwater with her husband, Sir Warwick in 1969. The previous occupant was Sir Warwick's mother, Lady (Mabel) Fairfax, who died in 1965.

Fairwater is expected to attract strong overseas interest. 

The state government would secured $6.94 million stamp duty on the touted $100 million sale, and if the buyer is from overseas the duty payable on the purchase will be $14.9 million given an extra $8 million foreign buyer duty.

The listing comes just weeks after the will of the late Lady Mary Fairfax’s was revealed with some suggesting it was set to remain in the famous family’s possession for decades to come.

According to never before published provisions reported by The Australian, in her will the four beneficiaries are the US-based Warwick Fairfax Junior, adopted children Charles Fairfax and Anna Cleary, as well as lawyer Garth Symonds, Lady Mary’s son from a previous marriage.

Lady Mary's will which was written in 1999 did not include Sir Warwick's three children from his previous marriages. They were dubbed 'The Excluded Class'.

There is no explicit mention of how Fairwater is to be bequeathed in the will, although the trustees have the “power of sale” of all assets in the trust fund. 

Three executors were selected for their expertise in commerce, the law and finance — Lady Mary’s long-term adviser and confidante Bruce Solomon, former top tier lawyer and barrister Jim Momsen, and former KPMG partner Peter Done.

The fourth executor is Lady Mary’s longstanding personal assistant Lee Thomas.

Five months after Lady Fairfax's death, the title documents were transferred to the executors of the will.

The will does outline that “live-in” staff members employed by Lady Mary at the time of her death can “continue to live-in at Fairwater”. 

There was a fairly tasteless Fairfax Media article shortly after Lady Fairfax's death suggesting Sydney estate agents were circling the potential offering, though no facts were published.

Source: 23/9/17 

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