Inside the billionaire battle for real estate supremacy on Meadow Lane

Even billionaires have to keep up with the Joneses — and they’re spending the GDPs of small nations to do it.

Last year — during the uncertainty of the pandemic — the superrich clung to the Hamptons like a toddler with a security blanket. But one salubrious Southampton street saw more outrageous spending than ever before: Meadow Lane.

Consisting of roughly 100 homes (more than half of them head-turning mega-mansions), the narrow two-lane street runs from the tip of Southampton’s barrier island, all the way to the ultra-exclusive, members-only joint, the Meadow Club.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, at least 11 of those homes, roughly 10%, have flipped. But the ones that did packed a wallop. The total value of those transactions (five last year and six so far this year) weigh in at more than $350 million, according to data from listings portal Out East.

But billionaire residents of the street — long known as one of the East End’s toniest with Atlantic Ocean views to the back and bay views to the front — such as private equity titan Henry Kravis and Dallas-based financier Gerald J. Ford, will soon need to do ever more five-star entertaining.

Aerial view of 1210 Meadow lane.
Late Broadway performer Luba Marks’ former 3,727-square-foot home at No. 1210 sold for $28.8 million in the spring.
Douglas Elliman

Some 10 properties are now for sale along Meadow Lane — including an incomplete, nearly 18,000-square-foot oceanfront mansion at No. 1320 that hit the market in June for a sky-high $85 million — with a combined asking price of nearly $425 million.

The Hamptons heat can be felt throughout the market — whose luxury sector saw its median sales price jump 11.6% to $6.5 million in Q2 of 2021 from the first, according to Douglas Elliman. Closed sales climbed to 68 from 44 year-over-year. But Meadow Lane benefitted from fresh opportunities.

Inset of Adrien Arpel over her Meadow Lane home.
The longtime home of cosmetics titan Adrien Arpel (inset), 2020 Meadow Lane, sold for $21 million.
The Corcoran Group; Jemal Countess/WireImage for HSN

“Some of the listings … have been in the families for decades,” said Mark J. Baron, an associate broker at Saunders, who last year sold cosmetic titan Adrien Arpel’s 9.75-acre estate at 1995 and 2020 Meadow Lane — which she owned for more than 30 years — for $21 million, and now represents the 11-bedroom 1950 Meadow Lane listing, which asks $24.49 million, that’s been in the same family for nearly 40 years.

Sweetening the deal for sellers, Baron also added that 17 homes Hamptons-wide with prices higher than $20 million sold in the first half of 2021, whereas the same time period in 2020 only saw nine such deals.

“People are obviously looking to sell at the highest price possible, and I think the timing in 2021 … is excellent for everybody — and that’s why you’re seeing the number of trades that we’re getting,” he said.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft points to fans as his team warms up before an NFL football game against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.
Robert Kraft shelled out about $43 million for the privilege of living on Meadow Lane.

Among the Meadow Lane deals so far this year: Billionaire New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft splashed out some $43 million off-market for a modern, 7,000-square-foot spread at No. 40 in April.

That same month, a contemporary six-bedroom at No. 1360 sold for $28.5 million. Also in the spring, a 3,727-square-foot property designed and owned by the late fashion designer and Broadway performer Luba Marks traded hands at No. 1210 for $28.8 million. 

It builds on momentum from 2020, when the estate at 1116 Meadow Lane, which previously belonged to late media and entertainment mogul Robert F.X. Sillerman, sold for $36 million. (His other two former Meadow Lane properties, Nos. 1080 and 1100, now ask $78 million for sale.) 

But one deal stands out in particular: billionaire hedge-funder Ken Griffin’s off-market, $84.44 million purchase of Calvin Klein’s roughly 7-acre property at 650 Meadow Lane in March 2020.

An inset of Ken Griffin over his Meadow Lane home.
Buy-happy billionaires like Ken Griffin (inset) have spent more than $350 million on Meadow Lane mansions since March 2020. Griffin paid $85 million for No. 650.
E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images; Doug Kuntz

“That was a sale that somebody could point at and say, ‘No one wants to be the first one to spend that kind of money for an asset, one that is considered part-time use.’ [But] he did it, and it was very good for the market,” said Corcoran broker Tim Davis. “[It] caused sellers to consider, ‘Is now the time?’ ”

Davis is representing four Meadow Lane listings — one of which, at 840 Meadow Lane, asks $75 million for an 8-plus-acre estate with 512 feet of beach frontage and a 30-room Tudor-style mansion. (This estate is reportedly owned by a limited liability company tied to the family of late lawyer Julia Vance Carter, and has been in the family for decades.)

Interior of840 Meadow Lane.
The 30-room, 8-acre estate at 840 Meadow is listed for $75 million.
The Corcoran Group

Davis added that the recent activity is galvanized by a potential spike in capital-gains taxes under the Biden administration, but other brokers generally agree the tides of generational change have swept their way onto Meadow Lane. 

“People who live there have had the houses for 20, 30, 40 years … at a certain age, they’re ready to move on and to size down — and when you know the market is good, it calls for it,” said Douglas Elliman broker Michaela Keszler, who sold the former Marks home. But despite that property’s first-floor ocean views, as well as its vistas on Shinnecock Bay, the new owners plan on taking it down and putting a new one up in its place — a characteristic that a number of other nearby properties share.

“The houses either need to be completely rebuilt, or [have] considerable renovations,” said Davis. “Very few things are turnkey. Very few.”

Aerial shot of 1950 Meadow Lane in Southampton, NY.
Enjoy a worry-free move into three-story 1950 Meadow Lane.
Courtesy of Saunders & Associates

That’s not to say every home there requires extensive work. Baron points to his 2005-renovated 1950 Meadow Lane listing, with three stories and 11 bedrooms, as move-in ready — and any new construction would need to adhere to FEMA guidelines, which he said would mean less space for the new occupants.

It may seem that the combination of listings and sales, plus the potential for the street to see a number of new-builds or renovations, would harm its long-held reputation as the East End’s Billionaire’s Row. But brokers said the existing lots aren’t being subdivided to accommodate more residents, and the activity only strengthens Meadow Lane’s cachet.

“If anything, it’s creating even more exclusivity — and it will always remain that way because you have a limited number of lots or homes that will ever be available,” said Baron. “And then, when [a new-construction home] comes on the market, ultimately that’s what buoys everything up and raises the pricing.”

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