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September 16, 2014

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In a game of crazy 8s, Silicon Valley group claims the Stirling Club

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JPM Studio

In the flurry of numbers climbing to the millions, Carlos “Art” Nevarez and Jason Abrams were fixed on one in particular.

What’s with all these 8s wondered the men who would secure the purchase of the Stirling Club on Oct. 11 during a lively bidding battle on Auction.com.

“It was a funny, funny deal,” said Abrams, the Las Vegas real-estate broker who worked the purchase by the investment group managed by Nevarez, JDLB LLC. “We were at Art’s house and we had our laptops open, and when the bidding went above $7 million, we noticed the bids started ending in 8 or 88. This is how agents bid on foreclosed properties: Whenever you get a bid from an Asian, it ends in 088 or just 88.”

Why would that be?

“It’s a lucky number in Asian culture, and we felt these were superstitious bids,” Abrams said during a phone conversation today shortly after the buyers of the Stirling Club were made public. “Then we thought, ‘What is the most unlucky number in that culture? We looked it up, and it was 4, 5 and 6.”

So when a bid of $10,100,088 was posted on the website, Nevarez and Abrams looked at each other.

For three minutes.

“I said, ‘Are you superstitious?’ and Art said, ‘No, I’m not superstitious, and I’m not Asian,” Abrams said. “So when we had 30 seconds left on the clock to make our next bid, we put in a bid of $10,456,000.”

That was what the Mansion at Turnberry Place, home to the storied Stirling Club, sold for. The buyer is a collection of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with a fondness for Las Vegas. Whether the competing bidders were at all deterred by that set of unlucky numbers is unknown. What is certain is the figure was a far greater leap in the bidding process than any that preceded it. Up to that point, the offers moved along in $50,000 increments.

“Then all of a sudden we had made a bid more than $200,000 higher than what was being offered,” Abrams said. “It showed we were serious. When you’re looking at the bidding and someone goes ahead and raises it that much, you start thinking, ‘Do I really want it?’ ”

Whichever the case, JDLB’s investment group paid “significantly less” than they would have been willing to pay for the Stirling Club, as Abrams notes.

The Stirling Club was had for a song, a fitting reference for the club’s rich history of live music helmed for a decade by Kelly Clinton Holmes. The property was built at a cost of more than $44 million, but by the time it was closed in May 2012, it was losing money as dues-paying residents began checking out of Turnberry Place, a lingering result of the economic downturn in the Las Vegas real-estate market.

A late attempt by Siegel Group founder and Turnberry Place resident Steven Siegel to buy the property for $12.5 million to $14 million unraveled on the very night the club shut down. Two months later, the Mansion — a regally appointed, 3.3-acre compound on Paradise Road to the west of LVH — was listed for $18 million on the Sotheby’s International Realty website. That lengthy posting never lured a bid satisfactory to the owners of the Mansion, Jeffrey and Jacqui Soffer and their company Turnberry Associates.

Finally, in September the Soffers enlisted Auction.com to assist in selling the property. The new owners have been hard-focused on acquiring the property, with such details as what to do next to be sorted out. JDLB is not particularly well-known in Las Vegas, though Nevarez has built a reputation as an active start-up entrepreneur with such tech operations as BizzBlizz, a social commerce company; Violin Memory, a Flash-storage provider; and Float Cloud, a graduated Flash-storage company born from BizzBlizz and Violin Memory.

Nevarez, who has thus far enlisted Abrams to act as a spokesman for the new ownership investment group, lives part time in Las Vegas (Abrams won’t say if he is actually an owner or resident of Turnberry Place) who has visited the city regularly for 15 years.

“He is in love with the community and has been inside that building several times,” Abrams said. “I don’t know much about the world of technology, but he has been wildly successful in his Silicon Valley endeavors. … What I’ve seen these guys do is, whenever they take on a project is they do it right or not at all.”

At the moment, the general vision for Nevarez and his group is somewhat hazy. Inarguably, they first need to refresh the property. There have been somewhat conflicting, inconsistent accounts of the condition of the Mansion and its amenities, which is highlighted by the swanky Stirling Club lounge and adjoining restaurant and features a spa, a pool, a fitness center, tennis courts, two kitchens, 10 bedrooms, 20 baths and separate staff quarters. The main building is an elegant 80,000-square-foot mansion laden with marble, brass fixtures, red-carpeted stairways and polished-wood effects.

“Believe it or not, the Stirling Club is in amazing condition,” Abrams said. “The engineers who have been on staff since it closed have kept the place white-glove immaculate. Yes, the carpet on the stairs is vacuumed clean but needs to be replaced, there are some broken tiles by the pool, and there is a need for refinishing of the wood floors, but there is no structural requirement at all. The building is in phenomenal shape, and if you were not a meticulous perfectionist, like these guys are, it could open tomorrow.”

As what? Abrams says the plan is to make the Stirling Club alive again for use by those who live at Turnberry Place and, maybe, the general public, as well. Many Turnberry Place residents have been concerned the Stirling Club will be closed to outside activity forever and made into a private dwelling.

“Looking at the layout of the place, I don’t know how that could happen,” Abrams said when asked of the likelihood of the property being turned into a residence. “It’s conceivable, but I don’t see how turning it into a private residence is in the plans.”

Nevarez still needs to conduct serious discussions with nightlife companies, restaurateurs, entertainers and related staff to bring the club back to life. He’ll also need to make some sort of agreement with Turnberry Place residents on how to pay the operation costs of the Stirling Club, as more than 700 homeowners were paying a mandatory fee of $400 a month in fees to keep the collection of amenities afloat.

“We’re trying to develop a new relationship, a new era here, and I’m not sure the (homeowners) association would agree to mandatory payments,” Abrams said. “We can certainly talk to them about a voluntary master membership. Nothing is off the table right now.”

That includes a change in name. Don’t expect the Stirling Club to be called such in the property’s new era.

“If they take my advice, they’ll change it,” Abrams said. “I have an idea of what it should be.”

Just add it to the lengthy “to-do” list for the Stirling Club. For a property that has been latent for 18 months, there is work to be done. What will happen, and when, is still in the offing.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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