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The Mega Mansions Billionaires Are Buying And Selling Right Now

Morgan Brennan

If you want to see billionaires in Midtown Manhattan, look up. With 11 units priced at $42.5 million or higher and two penthouses asking more than $100 million, the yet-to-be-completed One57, a new ultra luxury high rise in New York City, is poised to become the latest enclave of the ultra-rich in a ZIP code full of them. More than one of third of the 95 condo units had already found buyers.

"We have had activity on every [price] tier and contracts out and signed since day one," says Dan Tubb, director of sales for One57. He says the development, soaring 90 stories over Central Park, is attracting overseas clients that have made ten-figure fortunes in commodities. "Some of the international buyers…are looking at the conversion rate as well as the solid investment that's very consistent in real estate here in New York, so it's an interesting pairing of motivations for billionaire buyers." [More from Forbes: Billionaire home sales]

A decade in pre-development, One57 is looking to cater to the burgeoning population of billionaires buying in the Big Apple. Perhaps the least known collector of real estate is Alexander Rovt. Since the downturn, the fertilizer magnate, worth $1.2 billion, has added more than 30 properties (mainly in New York) to his property portfolio. Most were bought with the intention of renting out, but two are Upper East Side townhouses he snapped up for himself personally. One, on East 63rd Street, was recently listed for $27 million, despite a four-year $18 million renovation and a slew of amenities including a garage, an award-winning pool and bathrooms toting solid gold fixtures. Henry T. Sloane mansion, the other, was purchased last summer for $33 million and hour before it auctioned off as a foreclosure. Rovt plans to pour $30 million into Sloane Mansion with the intention of ultimately moving himself and his wife there.

We searched through property records and databases to unearth some of the biggest billionaire real estate transactions of the past year. Sticking only to single-family, condo and co-op sales of the past 12 months, the world's richest people have been off-loading properties and snatching up new ones. Most of the purchases we uncovered were secondary homes and for every transaction we identified there are dozens more that remain a mystery, since rich and famous home buyers tend to conduct their residential real estate dealings behind the privacy of anonymous third-party LLCs.

In October, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen spent $25 million on a penthouse pied-a-terre hidden above East 66th Street in Manhattan. He already owns the neighboring 18-room unit, a sign that the west coast mogul, worth $14.2 billion, will likely combine the two units. The building, like many of its neighboring Fifth Ave pre-war co-ops, remains ultra-exclusive and houses other rich residents like oil billionaire Sid Bass and former Bear Sterns chairman Ace Greenberg (who sits on the co-op board).
[More from Forbes: Billionaire bargain: A $35 million Scottsdale mansion at an 85% discount]

Edward Lampert, the hedge fund billionaire behind Sears Holdings, is about to make a record-breaking purchase of his own. While Sears might be struggling, Lampert, worth $3.1 billion, is plunking down just under $40 million for a 2.7-acre, 17,000-square foot estate on Indian Creek Island. The exclusive Miami, Fla. island hosts 32 estates, including ones owned by fellow billionaires Carl Icahn, Charles Johnson and Norman Braman. Lampert's pending sale, which entered into contract earlier this month, will be the most expensive purchase in Dade County since 2006, and one of the most expensive in the county's history.

"It is a significant sale for Miami," says Jorge Uribe, a senior vice president with ONE Sotheby's International Realty and the real estate agent representing both sides of the deal. The home, which boasts 400 feet of waterfrontage and an "arrival court" with reflection pool, was not even officially listed for sale. [More from Forbes: America's ]

Miami has evolved into an urban vacation oasis for high-rolling home buyers both domestic and international, most notably from Brazil and Russia. In April 2011, Russian vodka billionaire Roustam Tariko snapped up a 15,000-square foot Star Island estate for $25.5 million and at least five additional sales above $19 million have closed since then. For a luxury real estate agent like Uribe, the first three months of 2012 alone will likely rack up a staggering $100 million in transactions. [More from Forbes: America's most over priced cities]

In Los Angeles, the world's richest have been acquiring the some of the city's most architecturally celebrated structures. Investor Ron Burkle, valued at $3.2 billion, bought Frank Llloyd Wright's Ennis House for $4.5 million last summer. The historic Loz Feliz building, with architecture inspired by a Mayan temple, was constructed from 27,000 concrete blocks and has played host to films like Blade Runner. In need of restoration, it was originally put on the market for $15 million in 2009.

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and a tech investor worth $1.5 billion, reportedly just bought an $11.5 million Hollywood Hills abode designed by renowned Hollywood Golden Age architect Paul R. Williams. The 1.25-acre estate has panoramic city views and two driveways that lead to two different streets. Last summer Thiel purchased an oceanfront Maui retreat for $27 million, believed at the time to be the biggest home sale ever in Maui County. As is the case with many billionaire purchases, the property was never publicly listed for sale. [More from Forbes: Most amazing high-rise mansions]