When Len Roberts decided to build an opulent mansion close to Texas Christian University, his intention wasn’t to show off.
It was to throw extravagant parties. And the former CEO of RadioShack hosted many memorable galas and parties for Fort Worth’s top business, civic and community service leaders.
“I wanted to be able to host dinners for 250 people,” Roberts said. “It was built for entertaining and to give back to the community.”
Now Roberts and his wife, Laurie, have moved beyond elaborate entertaining and are ready to downsize in a home in Mira Vista. Roberts, 74 and retired, plans to play a lot of golf.
The couple have put their 16,000-square-foot home at 4400 Overton Crest St. up for auction with Interluxe, an online auction firm specializing in luxury homes. The starting bid for the April 24 sale is $2.5 million.
Prospective buyers will be able to preview the property from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on April 21 and 22, and from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. on April 23. More information is available on the Interluxe website.
The house was previously listed with Williams Trew, a division of Ebby Halliday Real Estate Inc., for $8.9 million. Roberts said the house had been on the market for about three years but he and his wife were not in a rush to sell since they hadn’t found their next home.
Now that they have found a new home, which they are remodeling, they are eager to expedite the sale through an auction.
“Whoever buys it is going to get a great place to live and they are going to get it for a bargain,” Roberts said.
Building the sprawling house, which has about 12,000-square of living space and another 4,000-square-feet of unfinished storage space, took about five years. Construction of the five-bedroom, 10-bathroom home began in 1999 and was completed in 2004.
Among the most remarkable features of the traditional French-style home in the Tanglewood neighborhood is the 1.82-acre lot that offers hilltop views of TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium and downtown Fort Worth. The house has two garages that can accommodate five cars, and also has a 12-seat movie theater designed to resemble Chicago’s opulent Marbro Theatre, a favorite spot for the Chicago natives to catch a movie.
The couple invested $12 million in construction and the house currently has an insurance replacement value of $21 million, Roberts said.
The property has 12-foot wrought iron gates and 11-foot customized iron doors that lead into an exquisitely designed home adorned with crystal chandeliers, a grand spiral staircase, and Versailles patterned floors. The attention to detail extends to the electronic operating systems, which include the audio systems that were essential when entertaining crowds, Roberts said.
The entire estate is surrounded by 10-foot wrought iron fencing that required City Council approval because of its height. Extensive landscaping and terraced limestone stairs connecting to the pool and pool house adorn the expansive backyard.
“It was built to be a trophy house and made available to the community,” Roberts said.
Roberts said he left it up to his wife to make most of the design and construction decisions along with architect Don Wheaton, builder Rick Williams and designers for Sandra Sampson Interiors. But Roberts said he insisted that the house be built of limestone despite the high cost and onerous process of installing hand-cut limestone.
Growing up in a family of “modest means,” Roberts said, out-of-town-travel wasn’t in the budget. Instead, his family would visit Chicago’s magnificent museums built with limestone, including the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. “That was my only request,” he said.
Roberts and his family moved to Fort Worth in 1993, when he was hired as president of RadioShack. In 1999, he was promoted to CEO.
Prior to joining RadioShack, Roberts was CEO of Shoney’s and president and CEO of Arby’s.
He also has sat on the board of other companies, including JCPenny, Rent-A-Center, TXU and Texas Health Resources.
Active in community service, he is a former national chairman of United Way and has served on the boards of organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and Students in Free Enterprise.
Roberts said he understands that he won’t see a return-on-investment from the home and that “somebody is going to make millions on it but it won’t be us.”
But he is okay with that.
“We finally found a home that we love and we’re ready to auction this one off and move on,” he said.