Dan Rattiner's Stories

One Man’s Opinion: An Oceanfront Homeowner Explains Why He Sold His House

Whatever else you want to say about ad legend Jerry Della Femina, you would have to agree that he does many things, makes a lot of money and gets lots of publicity when he does anything.

Three weeks ago, just before the turn of the new year, Jerry sold his house. It’s a mansion of about 8,000 square feet on nearly two acres of oceanfront in East Hampton and in selling it, Jerry wrote a column about the sale for the New York Post which they published on December 23 under the headline AD GURU REVEALS WHY HE SOLD HAMPTONS ESTATE: I’M PAYING UNFAIR PRICE FOR WORKING HARD. A caption under a photo of his former house bears the caption “Adman Jerry Della Femina rushed to sell this Hamptons home before the taxman grabbed more of the cash.”

But let Della Femina tell you in his own words:

“The thing about capital gains is, I made the investment,” he said in the Post. “I put in the original money. The house cost $3 million and then I put in an additional $6 million because the house was in terrible shape….”

“When I bought that house I think Obama was in high school, and I certainly have paid taxes ever since. I don’t come from a lot of money. In fact, I don’t come from any money. So I literally started with zero. I worked very hard. And I’ve been very good to the people who worked for me….

“I made the investment while Obama might have been in high school or smoking dope in college or whatever he was doing. He didn’t make the investment. I did. He didn’t take the risk. I did. He didn’t improve the house. I did. And then, in the end, he’s saying I must pay him more.

“I think my fair share can be what it’s been all along….”

Della Femina is talking about what the capital gains tax was on December 23 and before, not as of January 1 and beyond for the people in the top 1%.

The house sold for $25 million. And Della Femina says that by selling it in December instead of January, he paid 8.6% less in capital gains. It’s hard to figure out things exactly with this, but if you deduct the costs of the house that Della Femina describes in his column, he probably made about $18.5 million just by living there. Capital gains taxes? Before January 1, it would have been just under $3 million. After January 1, it would be $3.7 million, he predicts in his column. Thus he would save about $925,000 from the evil clutches of President Obama.

The New York Post published some of the mail they got from readers about Della Femina’s column. None were particularly kind to the man. But at least one provided an interesting perspective.

“This man should remember how lucky he is to live in a place where he can make a fortune doing something as simple as selling a home that he barely needs,” wrote Adam Intravia of Riverhead. “The out-of-touch, mega-rich like him would do well to recall how laughably more well-off they are than nearly everyone. My family is proud of the modest salary I make through hard work and would never dream of complaining, despite the difficulty we live with daily. It is just another example of why the rest of us feel such disgust with the 1 percent who run this country and believe they are entitled to even more than they already have or could ever need.”

Della Femina has been a larger-than-life presence for decades here in the Hamptons. He bought, ran and sold the Red Horse Market, bought, ran and sold East Hampton Point, bought and ran and sold Della Femina’s, the restaurant on North Main Street in East Hampton, ran for trustee on the East Hampton village board one year (and lost), went to jail in handcuffs for selling pumpkins on the lawn of his store, held many, many parties and is the owner of and writes a weekly column for The Independent newspaper. He’s a good-humored person. He also threatened to move out of America, at least for the summer, if Obama were elected, claims he has no offshore money, and ran a successful ad agency in Manhattan that at one time employed more than 600 people. If he now leaves this area—he is currently homeless in the Hamptons, poor guy—he and his opinions will surely be missed.


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