SELLERS: Paula Deen and Michael Groover
LOCATION: Savannah, Ga.
PRICE: $12.5 million
SIZE: 14,500+ square feet, 8 bedrooms, 9.5 bathrooms
YOUR MAMA’S NOTES: Thanks to a couple of celebrity real estate-obsessed southern belles, we’ve learned that American comfort food queen Paul Deen has tossed her riverfront compound on fancy-pants Wilmington Island outside Savannah, Ga., on the open market with an asking price of $12.5 million. Property records show the still somewhat beleaguered celebrity chef and her shaggy-bearded tugboat captain second husband, Michael Groover, acquired the gated and fully landscaped spread in April 2006 for $3.75 million.
In 2012, after it was revealed she’d been diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic years earlier, the butter-, salt-, and sugar-loving Daytime Emmy winner was publicly pilloried for giddily and some might say recklessly continuing to push her profoundly caloric and proudly unhealthy recipes. (Can y’all you say fried butterballs and Twinkie Pie?) The following year a female employee filed a sexual harassment and racial discrimination suit against Miz Deen that brought an even more brutal blow to her growing culinary empire that then included a popular and nationally televised cooking show, several restaurants, more than a dozen cookbooks, a line of cookware, a full range of mid-priced home furnishings and a slew of product endorsements. The suit was soon settled and dismissed with prejudice but not before the sixtysomething-year-old Georgia born and bred Miz Deen admitted in a deposition that she had in her lifetime used the “N” word. The Food Network quickly dumped her along with more than half a dozen sponsors, and her lucrative relationship with home shopping juggernaut QVC was severed. Since then she’s explained and apologized profusely, regrouped and, last year, in a decidedly Phoenix-like effort, launched an eponymous digital network reportedly backed by a $100 million private equity investment. But we digress, don’t we?
Dubbed “Riverbend” for its rather plum location on a scenic curve in the Wilmington River that provides it with 300-or-so-feet of private water frontage, the Deen-Groovers’ approximately 5.5-acre multistructure compound is anchored by a sprawling French Caribbean-style mansion that measures more than 14,5000 square feet, according to digital marketing materials. In addition to a “dramatic living room,” a study with saltwater aquarium and — naturally — a probably butter smothered cook’s kitchen with English pantry, commercial-grade appliances and aviary — that’s right, children, she’s got a damn aviary in (or very near) her kitchen — listing details also call out an exercise room and a state-of-the-art media room with projection equipment, soda fountain and ice maker.
We’re not sure how many bedrooms and bathrooms are contained in the main house — the entire property has 8 bedrooms and 9.5 bathrooms per listing details — but it does have a master suite with French doors to a private terrace, a custom-fitted walk-in closet and dressing room and a bathroom large enough to accommodate a sitting area. The property additionally includes two guesthouses, a three-bedroom apartment, a dockhouse set out over the river and a 10,000-square-foot barn with an eight-car garage. Outdoor amenities and recreational features include a stocked pond, a croquet court, a swimming pool with dive-in theater and pool room — whatever that is — and an extensive outdoor kitchen fitted and kitted with three grills, four refrigerators and one smoker. Other notable features include five fireplaces, six water heaters, eight air conditioning units, an emergency generator and a back-up propane tank.
Our research shows Miz Deen and Mister Groover, reported to be headed for the court of divorce a couple of years ago after it was salaciously alleged in one of the more famously unsavory tabloids that he had a secret mistress, also maintain a second, two-residence riverfront compound on Wilmington Island that they appear to have owned since at least 2005, and likely much longer. They also keep a two bedroom and 2.5 bathrooms Tybee Island cottage playfully named the “Y’all Come Inn” that was purchased in early 2009 fort $294,000 and is currently available as a vacation rental at a rate of about $2,500 per week.
Listing photos: Seabolt Brokers