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Ex-Advanta CEO offers Philly-area estate for auction

Arbor Hill, a sprawling Fort Washington estate owned by Dennis Alter, the former CEO of the credit card lending company Advanta, is up for auction.

Arbor Hill, the estate of the former Advanta CEO Dennis Alter, is on the block for more than $20 million.
Arbor Hill, the estate of the former Advanta CEO Dennis Alter, is on the block for more than $20 million.Read more

Arbor Hill, the sweeping Fort Washington estate owned by the former chief executive of the now-bankrupt Advanta banking company, was put up for private auction Tuesday after an eight-year attempt to sell the property.

The estate’s owner, Dennis Alter, decided to auction off 50 of nearly 70 acres. When he initially tried to sell his home in 2012, he had posted the entire property for sale with a listing price of $30 million.

After the house remained unsold a few years later, Alter put 50 acres of Arbor Hill on the market for $12 million — an offer that remained untouched for more than 2½ years and ultimately drove him to put his estate up for auction.

On Tuesday, the estate, which includes the house, was listed on Concierge Auctions, a high-end real estate bidding platform that has counted Cher and Michael Jordan as its clients and has also been accused of using fake bidders to drive up prices. Concierge has denied the accusations.

“We’ve tried to sell the entire estate, but that’s not what we’re selling today at auction,” said Janet Rubino, the Long & Foster real estate agent who has been the listing agent for the property at 7111 Sheaff Lane since 2012.

There is no minimum bid for Arbor Hill, although all bidders are required to submit a $100,000 deposit that they will get back if they do not win the auction, said Baylie Bodiford, a spokesperson for Concierge Auctions. The property will be sold to the highest bidder, regardless of how much is offered. The auction will end Thursday.

Alter bought the 69.23-acre, Whitemarsh Township property for $1.5 million in May 1995, according to Montgomery County property records. He subsequently hired Rafael Viñoly, the renowned architect known for designing the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, to design his home, which features an indoor basketball court, theater, six-car garage, and elevator.

The entire Arbor Hill estate had a county-appraised market value of $15 million as of Tuesday, down from $24.2 million in 2012, according to property records. It has an annual tax bill of $304,502, down from $355,866 eight years ago.

It was unclear whether Alter, whose company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009, would keep the remaining 20 acres of Arbor Hill or try to sell it later. He did not return a request for comment.

Advanta, which Alter’s father created in 1951, became known for small-business credit-card lending. It thrived in the 1990s and into the early 2000s, but crashed during the recession as it hiked its interest rates on borrowers — as high as 30% — who subsequently defaulted.

In 2014, Advanta’s executives paid $13.25 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that accused them of misrepresenting the health of the company to investors.