Obama's vacation rental is investor's vineyard estate

Staff Writer
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(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will spend his August vacation in a multimillion-dollar modernist Martha's Vineyard estate owned by Chicago investment banker and Democratic Party donor David Schulte.

The 5,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home sits on nine-and a-half acres in Chilmark, Mass., and includes an infinity pool, a half basketball court, gym, and tennis court, according to a person familiar with the arrangements, who asked for anonymity because the trip details haven't been made public.

Located on the island's south shore, a preferred destination for presidential retreats for security reasons, the property features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and a two-bedroom guest house. A huge boulder, dropped by an ancient retreating glacier, rests near the front entrance, according to the website of architect Rick Sundberg, who was the lead designer for a 2006 renovation.

Schulte declined to comment. He bought the house in July 2000 for $3 million, according to public records. Current estimates put the property value at about $7.6 million.

Schulte is a managing general partner at the corporate finance firm Chilmark Partners. In 1990, he teamed up with billionaire Sam Zell to form the $1 billion Zell-Chilmark Fund to buy control of financially distressed companies.

Chilmark's investments included mattress maker Sealy Corp., Carter Hawley Hale Stores, Schwinn Bicycle Co., and radio station operator Jacor Communications Inc. When Clear Channel Communications Inc. bought Jacor in 1999 for about $4.4 billion in stock and assumed debt, the fund earned a profit of more than $1 billion.

Schulte has given $90,350 to Democratic candidates and party committees since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group. He contributed to Obama's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns as well as his earlier Senate run, and gave the maximum $28,500 to the Democratic National Committee in 2008.

Obama's visit, from Aug. 10-18, will be his fourth family vacation on Martha's Vineyard as president. He skipped going there last year during his re-election campaign. As in the past, the president is renting his vacation home. The costs typically are shared by the Obamas and taxpayers and the rental selection is handled by a local broker, according to a White House aide who asked for anonymity because the details haven't been made public.

White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to discuss the vacation's costs. It would be apportioned according to "longstanding" procedures of past administrations, he said today during a press briefing in Washington.

"When you are president of the United States you carry a little baggage when you travel and that's true whether it's a summit, international trip or on vacation," Carney said.

Blue Heron Farm, the estate that the Obama's rented during their past three visits to the island, sold in 2011 to British architect Norman Foster for $22.4 million. That property included a tennis court, basketball court, par-three golf course, swimming pool, and equestrian facilities.

Preparations have been made on the Island for Obama's visit. Additional mobile phone towers have been installed around the property and in Chilmark, according to a report by the Vineyard Gazette newspaper. Residents and vacationers are girding for major traffic delays. Unlike during his other visits, a main artery, South Road, is scheduled to be blocked off for the duration of his stay.

"We've had the president come to our town three times and it's been very cordial and there's been very little disruption and we love to have him," Selectman Warren Doty told the Vineyard Gazette. This year's visit will "be very disruptive."

_ With assistance from Jonathan D. Salant in Washington and Oshrat Carmiel in New York.