LeBron James's move to the Heat isn't just enticing people back to downtown Miami. It's causing them to drop crazy money like it's 2006 all over again, just to be near him. Case in point: millionaire Russell Wright, a Tony Stark-esque defense contractor and country music impresario who is also one of the richest African-Americans in the nation.
Wright and his wife dropped $4.2 million on the penthouse atop the luxury Marquis skyscraper -- three blocks from American Airlines Arena -- the same day LeBron announced his decision.
That's the most spent on any downtown apartment so far this year, according to Alejandra Serna, a publicist representing the Marquis.
"Obviously, the Miami Heat stadium being near was a big part of our decision," says Wright, whose high-tech company, Sentel, helps detect undocumented immigrants crossing the border. Nonetheless, he swears he didn't have any top-secret info about LeBron's announcement. "I figured that in the best-case scenario, LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh come together to make history right outside my house," he says. "Worst-case scenario: I'm a couple of blocks away from the stadium."
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Wright is not the only one willing to pay over-the-odds to be within smelling distance of Pat Riley's new tropical trio. According to Penni Chasens, an agent for Cervera Real Estate, at least one other LeBron-ophile has splashed an extra $100,000 to be near his idol. "We were working on a deal at the Marquis, and the buyer was low-balling the developer," she says. "The day after LeBron signed, he came back with a much better offer."
Edgardo Defortuna, head of Fortune International Realty, says the LeBron effect is real but hard to quantify. He says 49 units at Icon Brickell have sold since LeBron's announcement, and July sales for downtown were nearly double the number in June. "I've had friends from South America call and tell me they'll buy an apartment," he says, "but only if I can find them Heat tickets first."
Now if LeBron can just do something about the rest of South Florida.