Back in April, Swamplot asked whether, for $8.1 million, this 1941 River Oaks estate by architect Hiram Salisbury with a later addition by John Staub might be torn down to allow the construction of 2 newer mansions on the same property. Today, we have our answer: No. But for $7.2 million, the answer appears to have been yes — for the tearing-down part, at least. Yesterday, the city approved a demolition permit for the property, which changed hands in July.
Named a Texas Historic Landmark in 2001, the central part of the home was designed by Salisbury for attorney Thomas D. Anderson and his wife, Helen Sharp Anderson. In 1950, the Andersons had Staub design the home’s east wing. Mrs. Anderson died last year, 7 years after her husband. The listing, which featured carefully staged photos of the home’s well-tended grounds and interiors as well as its won’t-ward-off-bulldozers medal from the Texas Historical Commission, also noted that the River Oaks Property Owners association had already given approval for the 67,458-sq.-ft. lot to be subdivided.
The new owner behind the demolition is Christopher Van Riet, the Houston-native entrepreneur and chairman of Russian development and investment firm Radius Group, whose offices are in Moscow. Van Riet got his start in the Russian business world working for oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky‘s Menatep Group:
“When Mikhail Khodorkovsky went public with his ownership, [of the Yukos Oil Company, in the early 1990s],” Van Riet told the Moscow Times in 2011, “I said, ‘Putin and the Russian government have let them know that ownership will be honored.‘ I said, ‘That changes everything.’ . . . I got back here [Russia] immediately. I was basically on the next flight over. I started buying everything I could.” Van Riet himself later ascended to the board of Yukos, as well as serving as executive chairman of the board of directors of Dixy, a major Russian food retailer. (Khodorkovsky was later arrested by Putin; he was released from jail last year after almost 10 years of imprisonment.)
The house at 3925 Del Monte Dr., in the Tall Timbers section of River Oaks, is a good 2 miles west of the intersection of Kirby Dr. and Westheimer Rd., identified by displaced Kirby Court Apartments resident Anis Shivani, in a long article reprinted on Salon, as ground zero for Houston’s oligarch takeover. Van Riet, it appears, was already Shivani’s neighbor; on HCAD records, Van Riet lists his residence as the unit in the Huntingdon condo building (at 2121 Kirby Dr.) long owned by his father.
- 3925 Del Monte Dr. [HAR]
- Q&A: Investing Millions of Dollars With Texan Sense [The Moscow Times]
- Previously on Swamplot: For $8.1 Million, Would This River Oaks Hiram Salisbury and John Staub Estate Be Torn Down for 2 Newer Mansions?