Darden Corporation CEO sells Winter Park estate for $2.5M

The CEO of Orlando-based Darden Corporation has sold his Winter Park estate home for $2.5 million. 

The Santa Barbara mission-style home occupies a double lot on the 600 block of Via Lugano. It has more than 7,000 square feet of living space with a private courtyard entrance and three-car garage. 

Gene and Amy Lee bought the six-bedroom Holloway Custom Home in 2007 for $3.875 million. It was built for the 2007 Parade of Homes, with custom features including vaulted ceilings with hand-painted details, 1,000-bottle climate controlled wine room, and a theater room.

The living room has three sets of french doors opening to a back yard retreat, with a pool and spa facing an outdoor fireplace and a summer kitchen with hand-painted Spanish tile. 

Listing agent Maria Van Warner with Fannie Hillman & Associates told GrowthSpotter the couple recognized that they had bought at the height of the market and knew they wouldn't recoup their original investment.

"They were realistic about the price," she said. 

Th prime location in Winter Park's exclusive Vias neighborhood and the home's detailed woodwork were its biggest assets, but the darker wood tones needed updating to appeal to today's buyers.

"It was the style 10 years ago," she said. "The buyers today want open floor plans and lighter tones. The people who bought it are painting and doing renovations to update it." 

Darden also has been divesting of its real estate assets in the last few years, having sold the company's headquarters in 2015 for $133.25 million. Last year the company sold 7 acres on in the tourism corridor to the International Association of Amusements Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) for its national headquarters. 

Lee has spent his entire career in the restaurant business, having worked his way up from a busboy at York Steak House to CEO of the world's largest casual dining restaurant company. Darden's brands include Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, Longhorn Steakhouse, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen.

Van Warren said the Lees were downsizing, but they plan to stay in the Winter Park area.

The buyers, Vanessa and Allen Dexter of Winter Park, were represented by Catherine D'Amico, also with Fannie Hillman.

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