The Wall Street Journal

Asking $120 Million: An Oceanfront Estate Near One of the Hamptons’ Most Expensive Streets

June 2024
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For more than 20 years, Ann Tenenbaum was a reluctant Hamptonite. 

Though she preferred the desert to the beach, Tenenbaum spent summers in East Hampton, N.Y., with her late husband, private-equity pioneer Thomas H. Lee. There, the couple rebuilt an oceanfront estate not once but twice, including after a 2013 fire that nearly destroyed the home. 

Now, following Lee’s death last year, Tenenbaum is listing the property for $120 million. “It was very much his place,” said Tenenbaum, a venture-capital investor and philanthropist. “I loved having family and friends around. I just didn’t love the Hamptons.”

The roughly 3.6-acre property is near Further Lane, one of most expensive streets in the Hamptons, where hedge-funder Barry Rosenstein paid $137 million for an estate in 2014. It is also steps from the Maidstone Club, a tony summer hideaway for wealthy New Yorkers. 

Originally built in the early 1900s, the house was part of ink manufacturer Frank Wiborg’s approximately 80-acre oceanfront estate, according to Steven Gaines’ book “Philistines at the Hedgerow.” The main house spans about 14,000 square feet with eight bedrooms. There is a separate, two-bedroom guest cottage as well as a pool and tennis court, according to the listing. The property has about 225 feet of ocean frontage.

To prevent people from tracking sand from the beach into the living room, Tenenbaum and Lee built a tunnel from the oceanside heated pool to the home’s lower level, where there are two cabanas, she said. Tenenbaum was inspired by a similar setup she saw in Positano, Italy, she said.

Lee helped create the buyout business in the 1970s when he launched Thomas H. Lee Partners, a Boston-based firm with deals including Snapple Beverage. He later founded New York-based Lee Equity Partners.

He bought the East Hampton property for $16.2 million in 2001 from Lee Radziwill, the socialite and younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and her then-husband Herbert Ross, property records show.  

Before buying the home, Tenenbaum and Lee rented the house from Radziwill and Ross. “It was run down but chic,” Tenenbaum said. A few months after the rental ended, she read in the newspaper that Radziwill and Ross were divorcing. She called Lee, remarking that the house was likely to come on the market. “He bought it without even telling me,” Tenenbaum said. 

Initially, she and Lee planned to expand the house, Tenenbaum said, but found they had to rebuild it because the structure was in rough shape. She said she insisted that they reconstruct the two-story, stucco house almost exactly as it was. “I don’t like McMansion-type houses,” she said. 

Although they kept the layout mostly the same, they added a large basement with two bedrooms, a playroom, laundry and walk-in refrigerator. “I always have family around and people to feed,” said Tenenbaum, who has three children with Lee. Lee also had two children from a prior marriage.

The couple kept Radziwill’s landscaping, including rose bushes around a sunken tennis court. 

For the most part, Tenenbaum said, “people came over and had no idea we’d rebuilt it, which was my goal.”

She filled the house with colorful art and ceramics, she said, a contrast to the “serious, abstract pieces” favored by Lee that filled their New York City home. “I appreciated living with those pieces, but they weren’t me,” she said. 

In East Hampton, Tenenbaum said, they entertained constantly. Her children’s friends would spend summers at the house, and neighbors would pop in for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which were served buffet-style. “We had an open-door policy,” she said. “It was fun, but it was a lot of work by the end,” even with help.  

Over Labor Day weekend in 2013, a light fixture in the basement caused a fire, causing extensive smoke and water damage, Tenenbaum said. She and Lee had to take the house down to the studs a second time. “Nobody was hurt, that was the No. 1 thing,” Tenenbaum said. 

During the second renovation, they again kept the look of the house the same, but this time added a theater and karaoke room in the lower level. Tenenbaum declined to say how much it cost to rebuild, but insurance covered everything. “It was a big claim,” she said. 

In recent years, Lee mostly split his time between the Hamptons and an apartment in Palm Beach, Fla., Tenenbaum said. She joined him in East Hampton on weekends. 

After his death, Tenenbaum spent one last summer in the Hamptons, but left after Labor Day and hasn’t been back. “It was very, very hard for me,” she said. 

A Georgia native, Tenenbaum said the water in East Hampton is too cold for her liking—and she prefers beaches with hard sand that is easy to walk on. “I’m done with the Hamptons,” she said. “Now it’s my time to go be in Santa Fe or Malibu or Greece—I don’t know—maybe I want to be a gypsy for a little bit.” 

Still, she said her kids love the Hamptons, and the family will likely purchase a smaller home there. 

Hedgerow Exclusive Properties and Modlin Group Hamptons have the co-exclusive. 

The Hamptons market has been slow for the past few years, but sales are picking up. During the first quarter, the number of luxury sales rose 27.8% from the first quarter of 2023, according to real-estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel. The median luxury sale price for the period grew 24.7% year-over-year. 

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