Owners of the world’s largest, gaudiest mansion are suing their documentary filmmaker

I love seeing photos of celebrity real estate and interior design. To me, they’re like shirtless photos of hot guys, they fuel fantasies of living in those pristine, decked out mansions. Or, like in the case of tacky houses like Nicky Hilton’s, it’s fun to point and laugh at rich people with bad taste. That’s the case with this latest story on a new documentary on the world’s largest mansion under construction, a giant eyesore in Florida dubbed “Versailles.” While the nouveau riche owners were constructing it, while filming was underway, they ended up losing a lot of money after the market crashed and facing the possibility that they were in way over their heads. The mansion remains to this day just a giant, gaudy shell of a house. (You can see tons of photos of it here. The few photos where it looks super gaudy and finished are just “artist’s renditions” of what they intended to do with it.) The film ends with their insane house still under massive construction and facing foreclosure. Now the homeowners, the owners of the biggest timeshare company, want the filmmaker to edit it in order to show that they’ve since recovered control of the home. The filmmaker isn’t backing down, though. Here’s more:

The timeshare tycoon who wants to build the biggest home in the country — America’s very own Palace of Versailles — claims an upcoming documentary about his exploits is misleading.

And because of that, Westgate Resorts President David Siegel wants the director of “The Queen of Versailles” to tweak the ending.

In a letter obtained by TheWrap.com, Siegel wrote to director Lauren Greenfield’s attorney that his real estate company is currently healthy and “the most profitable” in its 32-year history.

He said he’s having no problem finishing construction of the palatial 90,000-square-foot mansion on 10 acres in Windermere, Fla.

Today’s economic troubles served as a backdrop for the film’s drama.

“Versailles does not face foreclosure because it was refinanced, and construction is starting again,” Siegel wrote in a letter dated Monday.

He’s asking the filmmaker to update the postscript with that information.
“As it stands now, it’s like ending an account of a basketball game after the third quarter,” he added. “I believe that it’s only fair that (Greenfield) complete the story honestly and with integrity.”

Siegel, 76, also has a lawsuit against Greenfield, executive producer Frank Evers and the Sundance Institute for alleged defamation, claiming the documentary contains harmful statements, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Those include: “Their timeshare empire collapses” and “their house is foreclosed.”
The documentary first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and opens in limited release Friday. Cable TV network Bravo is supposed to air it in 2013.

Siegel, meanwhile, also contends that some of the scenes were orchestrated, with the whole documentary coming off as a “Real Housewives of Orlando pilot,” he wrote.
But Martin Garbus, the director’s attorney, told TheWrap.com that the film will not be changed.

“It tells a story about a time in America and everybody should see it and make their own judgement (sic),” Garbus said in a statement. “Nothing in The Queen of Versailles is staged. There is no reason to update the film.”

The documentary also features Siegel’s 46-year-old wife, Jackie, and the eight children they are raising together.
Construction on Versailles began about six years ago, but work was halted in 2009 after Siegel said he had to refocus on his company, the Wall Street Journal reported. Just two-thirds of the home was completed.

In the meantime, Siegel looked into selling the opulent stunner — at one point dropping the asking price from $100 million finished or $75 million as-is to $65 million as-is.

Siegel was recently approved for a $25 million loan to help finish construction, according to reports, after the documentary completed filming.
And with 13 bedrooms, 22 bathrooms, three pools, two movie theaters, a bowling alley, a ballroom for 500 guests and Italian white marble in the designs, Siegel isn’t exactly motivated to sell the house, he told The Journal last week.

“Then again, I don’t need it, either,” he added.

[From The NY Daily News]

There are photos below of the home as it is now (as I gather), under construction – I guess the Seigels are shown in their other giant mansion while this one is getting prepared. They needed a $25 million loan to finish it and that think that somehow means they’re not in too deep? I found several real estate listings for this “house.” It has its own website, Lake Butler Mansion, and it’s also listed on PriceyPads.com, which has a link to over a hundred photos of the place. Inside, it just looks like a big cathedral or a public building under construction. It’s just a tacky, overpriced dream. It reminds me of Candy Spelling’s house, but she was able to offload that one to a young heiress with gaudy taste. Candy also had much better, albeit early 90s, taste in decor. What billionaire would drop $65 million on this monstrosity or pay $100 million to get it completed? The Seigels are stuck with it.

Here’s the trailer for The Queen of Versailles

Photo credit: Magnolia films

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95 Responses to “Owners of the world’s largest, gaudiest mansion are suing their documentary filmmaker”

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  1. ClaireB says:

    Strangely i don’t feel any sympathy towards them. I must be an awful person.

  2. brin says:

    Of course, how else can they pay the mortgage on this monstrosity?

  3. pink giraffe says:

    These folks know what happened to the last king and queen who lived in the actual Versailles, right? Actually I’ve read up on Marie Antoinette (Antonia Fraser’s bio is my fave source, but there are plenty of others, if you are interested), and I have way more sympathy for her and her family than I do for the Siegels.

    • Aagje says:

      Another recommendation, although it is about their son, Louis XVII, is The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury, dealing with their imprisonment in the Temple, the escape-plans and the many imposters that wanted to claim his title after his gruesome death.

      Fascinating read. (And sorry, bit off-topic…)

      And so typical for the nouveau-riche to try and have their own Versailles. Gaudy, tacky and useless. Just like them I should imagine.

    • Lucy2 says:

      I thought that too! I’d crack up if the townspeople got a guillotine ( not to actually use of course).

  4. Jackson says:

    I saw them on Nightline??? the other night. I just shook my head and laughed. She made some snarky comment about them being in the “1%” and the rest of us piddly “99%ers” not liking them for it. I just don’t even have words for them, really. Kids looked bratty as well – the one kid complained that the kids’ movie theater was too small – compared to the other movie theater in the house. Oh, and those pics of the wife are definitely shopped because she looked much rougher in the vid.

    ETA: The Nightline piece also said something about them getting around the place on Segways…and they weren’t joking. Idiots.

    • John Wayne Lives says:

      They should be embarrassed. This is just another example of “ugly on the inside”

    • Shannon says:

      Euggh. As someone who was raised by “1%er” parents, I can assure you that even by rich people standards these people are insufferably tacky and classless. This woman reminds me of Teresa from Real Housewives of New Jersey… pretty much the same story; ridiculous McMansion, flaunting wealth to excess, then the home gets foreclosed on.
      And people wonder why everyone is so upset about income inequality in this country! When the people with oodles of cash act like this, it’s hard to see how anyone could have a favorable view of the nouveau riche. This idiot has more or less said “let them eat cake!” and then accused the middle class of jealousy. It’s revolting.
      I’m also gonna go out on a limb here and assert that this woman knows what it’s like to live on a limited income. The elderly husband (GOLD DIGGER!) and leopard print dress gave it away. She dresses the way she imagines a rich woman would dress. The interior decorations give off a similar vibe. I mean seriously, a modern, red leather couch in a house that is supposed to be modeled after Versailles?! I’m sure there was a more appropriate choice at the furniture store, but she picked the couch with the highest price tag.

  5. paola says:

    I am an architect. I studied history of arts and architecture and since i graduated in Florence (italy) i know history and architectural styles.
    Now, my eyes are bleeding. This monstrosity can only be own by an old tasteless man who buys budget boobs to his social climber wife. That is not being rich, but only being stupid and tasteless.

  6. Feebee says:

    Ugh. I saw a piece on them too and the reporter asked her why she needed 9 kitchens…. [crickets] ….

  7. diana says:

    Poor little rich folks….

  8. mayamae says:

    Just how many children do these people have? You have to really love money to marry that.

  9. marie says:

    I would like the gold chair so that I may look down on all my peasants (pets). Actually my cat would probably just puke in it and I’m guessing the thing is bigger than my living room..

  10. Esmom says:

    I read about this but hadn’t seen photos of the house or the family. Yikes.

    I often lament about the horrible McMansions in my town that have replaced some beautiful old and modest homes but this takes that tacky architectural pollution to new levels. And these people give new meaning to the term “ugly Americans.”

  11. alexis says:

    It’s so big…how would only 11 people or so fill that place?

  12. D says:

    I bet some russian oligarch will buy it

  13. Blue says:

    That is just disgusting. Pointless. Wasteful. Tacky. Tasteless. Classless.
    Only good thing is that they gave some people jobs.

  14. Bellatrix says:

    Dear Duggars,

    Start packin’. Jim Bob’s got himself his very own compound.

    • Hautie says:

      To think that all those Duggar’s live in a house with just 3 bedrooms!

      All those dang kids are shoved into 2 bedrooms!

      One for the girls and one for the boys.

      And one for Jim Bob to get freaky in! :)

      There are oodles of these tacky ass, over built and just ugly homes… in and around Dallas.

      The owners can’t give them away.

      What is worse, is how much the county bleeds out of you for property taxes. And Texas has some stiff property taxes.

  15. TK says:

    True story. This woman is a drunk. Completely and utterly. Gets paid millions of dollars per child she has, I believe its 7 million a kid, and always wears the Shauna Sand lucite heels when she goes out drinking. Its an interesting sight.

  16. Happymom says:

    Did you guys watch the trailer? I really want to see the film. The couple is hilarious-albeit not always intentionally. It really shows conspicuous consumption taken to the absolute nth degree.

  17. Samigirl says:

    Sometimes I look at my house (3 br, 1.5 ba, 2 car garage, sunroom, nice sized front yard, huge back yard a little under 2000 sq feet) and wish I had a bigger, more spacious home. But I would NEVER want this house. It’s obnoxious.

  18. Really? says:

    Their American Dream is my American Nightmare! No matter how much money you throw at it, it still stinks of trash and deperation. Ick, ick, ick!

  19. lower-case deb says:

    Don’t worry, Jackie!
    If this pasture dried up, there’s someone eager to meet you very much!
    Look, he is already living in a gold palace!


  20. Chicagogurl17 says:

    How bout this…we give me $25M that I never intend to pay back and buy myself about $1M house (with a mere 2 kitchens (one outdoors/one indoors) and about $24M on never working again so I travel and volunteer and be a mom.

    Also clicked through the pics and what do you think they meant by “adult theatre”?

  21. Jayna says:

    I lived in Orlando for a while. She is such white trash. He’s old and delusional now, I guess, agreeing to build this home. It’s gaudy and isn’t about making a home for his and their kids. It’s about more and more and more. I saw her in a clip going around the house. She’s tackier than I remembered. I guess because she’s older and even more immature and shallow and materialistic. They don’t get that the majority are laughing at that home, not envious.

  22. cupidityrox! says:

    Digusting show of wealth. The only other person I can imagine owning a house this tacky is Kimora Lee

  23. Sarah says:

    Ug, they and this place look so……Florida.

  24. Seagulls says:

    My Uncle Jim has this particularly hysterical laugh. It starts out loud, stays loud, and ends loud. Provided you’re in another room, it’s hysterical. I’d like you to imagine me laughing this ridiculous laugh at these ridiculous people.

  25. Katija says:

    I actually love the grand hall… it’s the Russian in me. I’m ashamed. I have a genetic compulsion to love gaudy, tacky, conventionally hideous interior design.


  26. Jag says:

    He should try harder. The largest estate in the U.S. is also the most beautiful, in my opinion: the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. There’s no way he could touch the majestic beauty of that home. If you’ve never visited it, check out the website because it’s too gorgeous to miss! (I love the antiques, architecture and the flower gardens.) http://www.biltmore.com/

  27. F5 says:

    They say it’s a great movie, worth a watch.. not sure after this trailer though ;/ I didn’t see anything hilarious or wicked..

  28. Marianne says:

    when I first saw the headline, my immediate reaction was “Why cause they need MORE money?”

  29. NYC_girl says:

    1. You can’t buy class.
    2. This is why other people/countries hate us. Embarrassing. I’m sorry.

  30. Mooshi says:

    I would feel so uncomfortable in a house that large.

    My dream would be a cozy cottage in the mountains, growing my own vegetables and watching nature.

    **And of course having a laptop to read Celebitchy every day

  31. iseepinkelefants says:

    They could offload it to a Russian or a Saudi. They must not have stuck their real estate ads in the right places. But then again what billionaire wnats to live in Florida?

    But other than that no, no one’s going to want this house. And for that price? They’d have to find someone just as clueless and crap with their money as them.

    $100m for a home, waste. And this is why nouveau riche doesn’t stay rich.

  32. lucy2 says:

    I find it really gross that a bank would lend them $25 million for this eyesore. There are so many middle class people who can’t get a penny out of the banks still to refinance, but they’re giving these idiots, with their business a mess and a money pit sitting there, $25 million.

  33. Sandy Pandy says:

    It’s just so much waste from an eco standpoint. More to clean (water) and AC/electrical costs will be ginormous no doubt …

  34. DocLove says:

    Lauren Greenfield is a great documentary filmmaker. Her films are must-sees. Some people don’t like to see the truth (or how others see them compared to how they see themselves).

  35. Veruca says:

    My theory is that these kinds of people have to surround themselves with beauty (however relative) because they are so repulsive.

    Is it me, or does she come off as liking herself a little bit too much?

    And on what planet are basketball boobs attractive?

  36. RHONYC says:

    the unfinished facade reminds me of one of those horrid highway chain restaurants, i.e. Ruby Tuesdays or Howard Johnson’s. *blech* :-P

  37. Kiyoshigirl says:

    At one time I sat on the Board of our Homeowner’s Assoc. The Bylaws call for Board approval of all architectural plans. As such we were privy to a lot of interesting designs, one of which was an EXACT replica of the White House. It was to be built on the main road leading in to our neighborhood. There are plenty of beautiful homes that surround the lake and countryside, so the size was not a factor. The facade and notoriety it would have brought to the neighborhood were a different matter. We were perplexed as to how we would handle the matter, but fortunately were saved by the same circumstances that befelled the Steins. The property owner’s company failed and plans for the “White House” were scrapped. Fortunately a few years later a humble young family bought the lot and built a beautiful ranch home that was approved without question. Oh, the dreams and antics of the off and on rich!

  38. Sweettart says:

    That is just sheer craziness and proves the maxim, “a fool and his money are soon parted.”

    Who the heck needs a 6,000 sf master bedroom.

    Whoever has the financing on that property should start drawing up alternate floor plans that it can be reworked into so it can be used as a conference center or something.

    That is assuming it could even be used for something like that. If it is built in in the middle of some deed restricted community, the bank is going to be screwed.

  39. MK yarwood says:

    This right here is why socialism persists.

  40. the original bellaluna says:

    America, redefining the term GAUCHE.

  41. Emily says:

    OF COURSE they’re in Florida. I knew before clicking the link that this must be in Florida. And yes, I live in Florida. Getting out as soon as possible.

  42. Swan Jaco says:

    She should be suing whoever bolted those ridiculous things onto her chest. Absurd.

  43. Esmom says:

    Ironically some of the richest people in the world don’t live like this. Warren Buffet apparently still lives in his first, modest house. And has pledged much of his wealth to charity. It’s clear that these people have no concept of modesty or charity.

  44. Cinderella says:

    This is what an enormous pair of boobs will do to a rich man’s brain.

    An unfinished monstrosity in central Florida will move no quicker than a timeshare right now unless you practically give it away.

  45. sup says:

    there already is a Versailles why not do something original with all the money?

  46. Mario says:

    How anyone could waste that much money on a huge piece of crap is just disgusting.

  47. Layzoe says:

    I have been to Versailles and it’s really beautiful. Although I really loved the Petit Trianon the best due to its more simplistic elegance. The main palace was used to show France’s power as well as opulence and held the intricacy of the French court while the Petit Trianon was the residence royals led more of their personal lives. This is nothing like the original. This is so tacky and hideously ugly. Gah… just wonder how this monstrocity would fare in the Florida weather. (also loved the biography of MA by Antonia Fraser-very good read)

    I also feel absolutely no sympathy for them. This is truest form of greed and obstentatiousness.