Feb. 22, 2013 at 10:29 AM ET
For a Florida time-share mogul and his wife, size does matter.
After the economic crisis of 2008 caused the couple’s dream home in Windermere, Fla., to go into foreclosure and forced an overleveraged David Siegel to put it on the market, building has resumed on what is to be the largest privately owned home in America.
An estimated three more years of construction lies ahead to finish the modern palace dubbed “Versailles’’: a 90,000-square-foot mansion that will include a 30-car garage, 10 bathrooms, a homework room, a roller rink, three pools, two tennis courts and a bowling alley. There is also a grand ballroom with a ceiling high enough to fit a four-story building inside.
Siegel, 77, and his wife Jackie, 47, gave NBC’s Janet Shamlian a tour of the work in progress in a segment that aired on TODAY Friday.
“We never set out to build the biggest house in America,’’ Jackie said. “It just kinda happened.’’
The saga of the home’s construction has been chronicled in the book “The High-Beta Rich’’ by CNBC’s Robert Frank, as well as in the award-winning documentary film “The Queen of Versailles,’’ which made the couple a symbol of outsize spending, debt and real estate in America. Siegel, who owns timeshare resort firm Westgate Resorts, filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers claiming the movie unfairly portrayed his business, but the case was dismissed.
On TODAY, Siegel told Shamlian that he would not have agreed to do the film if he knew then what he knows now. However, Jackie, who is pursuing a reality show, said she still would have participated.
“But what I would have done differently (in the documentary) if I had known so many millions of people would be seeing it is I would have worn more makeup,’’ Jackie joked.
While the nation still struggles with an unemployment rate just below 8 percent, Siegel said he has recovered from the economic crash and that his company has resumed enough profitability to enable him to complete Versailles.
In the fall, Siegel made national headlines when he sent an email to his employees saying that if President Barack Obama were re-elected and raised Siegel’s taxes, he would be forced to fire workers and downsize his company.
Siegel, a staunch Republican, denied intimidating his workers into voting for Mitt Romney because their jobs might be at stake. "I can't tell anyone to vote," he told Frank in an interview. “I want my employees to be educated on what could happen to their future if the wrong person is elected."
As for Siegel’s future, he and his wife, who have eight children, are planning on living in the mansion once it’s completed and are not building it just to sell it.
“We are finishing it to actually finish it, but we do want to live there,’’ Jackie said.
In the meantime, the two have been living in a home that is a two-minute drive away from Versailles. Their current house is 26,000 square feet and has 15 bedrooms, four kitchens, and closets bigger than many New York City apartments.