Embattled educator Chris Whittle has lost his legendary East Hampton estate, Briar Patch, in a foreclosure auction. His former company, Avenues: The World School, a snooty for-profit education system with campuses in the Hamptons, New York City, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Shenzhen, China, was awarded right and title to the property to help satisfy the more than $6 million Whittle owes the school. Whittle borrowed the money from Avenues in 2013, resigned in 2015 and failed to pay the company back; outside of education, he’s still probably best known for Channel One, the former TV news provider for schools.
What is a credit bid? At the foreclosure sale, the lender makes a “credit bid” for the amount of debt the borrower owes. That is, the lender gets a credit for that amount, which may or may not be the entire sum owed. In this case, Avenues will also be assuming a mortgage on the property that Whittle took out to help fund his current international for-profit school endeavor, Whittle School & Studios, which was founded in the fall of 2019 with campuses in Brooklyn, Washington, D.C. and Shenzhen.
Whittle and his wife, photographer Priscilla Rattazzi, a niece of late Italian auto tycoon Gianni Agnelli, purchased Briar Patch in 1989 for $7.3 million. Known as lovers and owners of trophy homes, their holdings also included a Manhattan townhouse once owned by Gloria Vanderbilt and a Vermont getaway. The Whittles put the Hamptons estate — also occasionally known as Shepard Krech House (gesundheit!) — on the market several times. In 2001, Whittle asked $45 million for the place, but it did not sell. The estate was unsuccessfully offered again in 2014 with an asking price of $140 million; it popped back up for sale last year asking $95 million.
So what does Avenues now own? The sprawling compound totals 11.2 acres but has been subdivided into two parcels, one being 7.5 acres and the other 3.7 acres. It’s right on Georgica Pond, with views to the ocean, and neighbors on the pond include Steven Spielberg, Beyonce and Jay-Z, and Ronald Perelman. The main residence was designed about 1931 by architect Arthur C. Jackson for local doctor Shepard Krech and wife Mary Chapin, the latter a descendant of George Washington.
After the Whittles moved in, starchitect Peter Marino spent nearly three years renovating the place. Details include a three-story living room, a sunken library, and a third-floor gym. There’s also two-foot-wide reclaimed floorboards, handmade wallpaper, and hand-stenciled ceilings. Each of the ground-floor rooms feature French doors that open to large porches. The Whittles also added the 3,500-square-foot guest house, which has its own private drive. And of course, the grounds are incredible, with mature trees, gardens, a sunken tennis court, and a 60-foot pool with cabana.
It’s unclear what Avenues plans for the property, but it’ll be interesting to see the next chapter in the history of this stunning and well-known Hamptons estate.