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Jackie Siegel and her version of the Versailles Palace. David Manning / Reuters
Jackie Siegel and her version of the Versailles Palace. David Manning / Reuters

Even billionaires' dreams can turn sour

The Life: The dream of former timeshare billionaire David Siegel and his wife, Jackie, to build the world's biggest family home came true with Versailles, the 8,360 square metre mansion, in Florida. But then the property bubble burst.

The former timeshare billionaire David Siegel and his engineer turned beauty queen wife, Jackie, had a dream and that was to build the world's biggest family home.

They chose as their site a 4-hectare peninsula on the picturesque shore of Lake Butler in Orlando, Florida, and designed a 8,360 square metre mansion modelled on the 17th-century Palace of Versailles on the outskirts of Paris. Accordingly, they named their house-to-be Versailles.

Mr Siegel was the founder and managing director of Westgate Resorts, the largest privately owned timeshare company.

Sadly for the couple, the property bubble burst along with their dream.

The Siegels were stuck with a house they could no longer afford and were forced to put the shell of the property on the market for an initial price of US$75 million (Dh275.4m).

To get a completed home, they were asking buyers for $100m. The asking price has since been cut by $10m to encourage a quicker sale.

The three-storey house has 13 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms, a 20-car garage and three pools. There is a main chef's kitchen with 10 "satellite kitchens" scattered throughout. Additional features that don't appear in too many other homes include: a grand ballroom, not one but two sweeping staircases, a two-storey wine cellar that can hold 20,000 bottles, a dining room that seats 50, a two-lane bowling alley and an indoor roller rink. The grounds have tennis courts and a baseball field.

As you would expect, craftsmen have paid particular attention to detail: a 9 x 2.4 metre stained-glass dome took three years to make. The Brazilian mahogany French doors alone cost $4m.

The white Italian marble intended to cover the house's concrete shell lies stacked in the garage.

A documentary about the Siegels' efforts to build their dream home was the toast of the Sundance Film Festival in Utah this year. But Mr Siegel was not happy with the outcome and is suing the filmmakers and the festival organisers.

lgutcher@thenational.ae

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