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Songbook Foundation seeks to maximize value of eight-figure gift

The Great American Songbook Foundation has retained a global real estate services firm to manage the marketing and sale of Asherwood, the massive Carmel estate donated in 2017 to support the Foundation’s mission of music education and historic preservation.

Toronto-based Avison Young, founded in 1978, comprises 5,000 real estate professionals in 120 offices across North America, Europe and Asia. It provides investment sales, leasing, advisory, management, financing and mortgage placement services to owners and occupiers of office, retail, industrial, multifamily and hospitality properties.

The firm has launched a website,, dedicated social media accounts and an international communications campaign aimed at a broad spectrum of potential buyers. The 107-acre estate off Ditch Road features two golf courses and several structures, including a 50,000-square-foot main house, an 8,000-square-foot golf clubhouse and a 6,000-square-foot guest house.

The property has hosted many social and charity events, with overnight guests such as Presidents Clinton and Obama, Oprah Winfrey and other notables. Avison Young executives say Asherwood holds enormous potential for a range of residential, commercial or nonprofit uses.

“Our Avison Young team is honored to be selected as the agents representing the Songbook Foundation in the marketing of the Asherwood estate and its related real property assets,” said Bill Ehret, Principal and Managing Director with the firm. “The quality, uniqueness and complexity of this assignment required the assembly of a global team. Our goal is simple: maximize the value and enable the Songbook Foundation to advance its mission.”

The Songbook Foundation acquired the estate in late 2017 from Bren Simon, philanthropist and wife of the late real estate magnate and Indiana Pacers owner Melvin Simon, with no directives other than employing the gift in support of the Foundation’s mission. Throughout 2018, a committee of Foundation staff and board members consulted with accounting and law firms, museum professionals, residential developers, golf course operators, restaurateurs, parks and recreation departments and other interests in an effort to identify the best uses for the property.

After months of study, the group determined that the course most consistent with the organization’s mission and the donor’s intent was to sell the estate outright rather than remain involved in any future activity at the site. Late last year, the Foundation announced its decision, conducted a public auction of furniture and other personal property, and invited real estate brokerages with national experience to propose strategies for the sale.

Chris Lewis, the Foundation’s executive director, said Avison Young most effectively demonstrated the capacity to handle the marketing of such a large and distinctive property.

“We’re confident that Avison Young has the resources and expertise to maximize the value of Mrs. Simon’s incredibly generous gift,” Lewis said. “We anticipate a great deal of interest, and we will review those offers with an eye toward not only the purchase price but also the compatibility of the buyer’s intent with the interests of the neighboring property owners and the broader community.”

The sale proceeds will help to ensure the financial future of the Songbook Foundation, currently housed at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, as it pursues a permanent home for its vast collection of memorabilia, sheet music, recordings and personal items associated with the creators and performers of America’s timeless popular music.

The proposed Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Museum will be a state-of-the-art international attraction comparable to major music museums around the world. As a Cultural Affiliate of the Los Angeles-based Grammy®Museum, the Songbook Foundation is drawing on expertise from that and other organizations in its planning process.

Make sure you grab a copy of the Wall Street Journal from Friday, March 8, to see the exclusive story about the Asherwood mansion being put up for sale in Carmel, to benefit the Great American Songbook Foundation.

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