Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nashville's Biltmore?

I like big houses. They're interesting. They make you think "what if". The story behind a big home is usually pretty facinating when you start learning how it came to be. If you're like me then you'd understand the interest. Some people just view the home as a big guady structure and accuse the owner of simply show-boating the family fortune. That may be true but what was the reasoning behind the home; there's probably a really good story.

Nashville and the surrounding areas of middle Tennessee, most notably, Williamson County, is home to several enormous residential dwellings. Over the years I've enjoyed scoping out some of these properties and even visiting some of the newer ones during the construction phase when you can walk through the home and get a chance to see how the other half lives. Some of them are without a doubt guady but doesn't it make you want to know more about it? We recently learned about the Alan Jackson estate, Sweetbriar (photo above), on Moran Road being listed for sale; 19,000 square feet, 125 acres, a boathouse with rather large private lake and a few other modest necessities along with a $38 million price tag and it could be yours. Good luck with the light bill payment! Go to for a virtual tour.

Most all of us know about Alan Jackson and his march of fame in the music industry but what about all those others? It just makes you wonder.

A friend of mine in the construction industry recently tipped me off to a project taking place on Hillsboro Road at the intersection of Sneed Road just outside of Nashville in Williamson County. It seems that back in 2004 a 207 acre tract of prime land was bought at this location by a couple of local Tennessee entrepreneurs, Preston Ingram, chairman and founder of AIM Healthcare Services and private investor Scott Sohr, for the smooth pricetag of $2.3 million. The two partners had amassed over $200 million worth of land options by the early spring of 2005 in hopes of capitalizing in the booming development of homesites in the hot middle Tennessee housing market. As we know the market took a nosedive and the hot home sales quickly simmered as developers watched land values slide and their portfolios shrink. For Ingram and Sohr, however, it seems they were able to foresee the future of the housing market and were able to dump the Hillsboro tract of land for a cool $9.2 million profit back in 2007 just prior to the housing crash. Enter Todd Wagner.

Records show that the transaction of the land sale went to a trust in Palm Harbor, Florida called Remington PH Trust. While I don't know anything about Remington, I do know that the trust is linked to Todd Wagner. Wagner is the longtime business partner of Mark Cuban, controversial owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban and Wagner both University of Indiana alums partnered up in 1995 to begin a venture called AudioNet which broadcast live sporting events and radio stations over the internet. In 1998 they changed the name of the company to and took the company public. The venture proved to be sucessful, so much so that it got the attention of a little company with a funny name called Yahoo! Yahoo! bought the business during the boom of the .com era and made Cuban and Wagner instant billionaires, $5.7 billion to be exact. Wagner stayed on with Yahoo! for a few more years before resigning to persue other entertainment ventures. Today Wagner is heavily involved in the movie and TV industry with his company 2929 Entertainment.

So, what's all this got to do with big houses you may ask. Well, it seems that Mr. Wagner has begun developing the property on Hillsboro Road. No, he won't be trying to develop and sell homes to the Nashville's rich and famous. Instead Mr. Wagner is in the works of designing and building his own home on the property. Recent insider sources are reporting that Wagner intends to build an estate that more than quadruples the size of Alan Jackson's simple dwelling. That's right, you could very well soon see Google satelite images of a home that rivals that of the one in Asheville, North Carolina known as Biltmore. My sources indicate that the home plans have been estimated from anywhere between 85,000 to 130,000 square feet (that is not a typo). Now granted, Biltmore is said to be 175,000 square feet but does it really mater? (Photo to the right shows the front entrance to the Hillsboro Road property at the entersection of Sneed Road. A guard can be seen in the photo as well as around the clock 24 hours a day)

I can't help but wonder why Wagner has chosen this area for his dream home site. Could it be that we could soon have a new professional sports team owner in town? The question is entertaining and has validity. At one time Mr. Wagner had serious interest in purchasing the NHL's Dallas Stars. That deal never developed but with the state of the current Nashville Predators organization it could offer Wagner a quick deal letting the current local owners group off the hook for what seems like a never ending uphill battle in ticket sales and attendance. With Wagner's buddy Cuban not far away for sports team owner advice, you could reason that it could just be the ticket for the Nashville Predators franchise in hopes of a fresh step toward financial success. But let's not stop there. Could you even foresee a scenario where Wagner might be interested in taking our fair city to new heights with a proposed professional baseball or basketball team? Or how about this for conversation - could he be positioning himself as future owner of the Tennessee Titans? Probably not but it's not an outrageous question. Let's face it, Bud Adams is a bit long in the tooth and who knows if one of his daughters will want to carry the torch or not.

After Wagner graduated from Indiana he obtained a law degree from the University of Virginia and moved on to Dallas, Texas where he became a CPA. He has deep roots in Texas and has been involved in organizing charity events in the Dallas area that involve the likes of Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner, as well as several players from the squad. He has been associated with several people involved in the Dallas Cowboy organization over the years and can certainly be considered more than just a casual fan. With longtime friend Cuban's involvement with sports team ownership I think it makes reasonable sense that Wagner could be looking to engage himself in that line of work as well.

Realistically, the Predators gig seems that it would be the most appealing and available venture for an aspiring local sports team owner. Who knows, perhaps Wagner has ambitions to become the next big country music star. Probably not but his deep pockets will allow him to play and frolic around Middle Tennessee for as long as wishes. Only time will tell, just as only time will tell just how big the house on Hillsboro will become.


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  3. I love Biltmore, it was veru easy for me to find a Biltimore square for rent when i came here from Asia.