Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 | 8 a.m.
The British businessman who bought Liberace's 15,000-square-foot Las Vegas mansion for half a million dollars said Friday he plans to work on it relentlessly to restore it to its former glory.
Martyn Ravenhill told The Associated Press from his home in Guilford, where he's preparing to celebrate his 50th birthday on Saturday, that he's been a huge Liberace fan all his life as well as a lover of Las Vegas.
"When you live in England and it rains every day, somewhere like Las Vegas seems quite magical," Ravenhill said. "A bit like Santa Claus."
He says he was looking at Liberace videos on YouTube when the video sharing site suggested a clip about the mansion in repossession and foreclosure.
"It seems such a shock to see these videos of the sad state of the Liberace mansion," Ravenhill said. He called real estate agent Brad Wolfe only to discover the property was under contract. That deal fell through, he says, and he flew out to see the mansion. Within 10 minutes of viewing the property he described as "just enchanting," he decided to buy it.
The two-bedroom, 10-bathroom home was built in 1962 and sits on a half-acre lot in an aging neighborhood near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Surrounding homes are small and sell for $80,000 to $150,000, which dragged down the value of the home, said Wolfe, who represented Ravenhill in the deal.
"I'm going to make it habitable and then start doing magic on it. It's going to be a big project. I am totally open to volunteers," Ravenhill said. He said he's unsure if he will be able to open the doors to the public.
The mansion sold for $500,000 to Ravenhill, who seemed surprised by the international attention the purchase has brought. It went for $29,000 below its list price and about $3 million less than it was sold for seven years ago.
"It's not a lot of money in my mind," said Ravenhill, who says he has properties around the world.
Liberace, whose extravagances were legendary, became the best-paid entertainer on the planet during his heyday from the 1950s to the 1970s. Ravenhill says the mansion is a piece of American history that needs to be protected.
Alina Hartounian in Phoenix contributed to this report.