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Triangle

Mansion is a for-sale sign of the times 

Even at $5.6 million and just a fraction of its total acreage, Peter Loftin’s estate in north Raleigh was probably a bargain. The home’s 17,682 square feet included 10 bedrooms, 12 full bathrooms, five half-baths, 40-foot ceilings and a built-in humidor. Before the recession hit, Loftin, founder of BTI Telecom Inc. (cover story, October 1989), had listed the entire 71-acre estate for $32 million. In March, Santa Fe, N.M.-based TMST Inc. bought the house and 14 acres out of foreclosure.

Despite the reduced price, it might be awhile before TMST can sell the property for more than it paid. “How many buyers in North Carolina are going to plop down $6 million or $8 million or $10 million for a home? Very few,” says John Wood, immediate past president of the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors. “We haven’t had anything sell in that price range in a couple of years.”

The real-estate market has changed a lot since Loftin finished building the house in 2000 — about the same time he bought the Miami estate of the murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace. Loftin sold BTI three years later for $138 million to Huntsville, Ala.-based ITC^DeltaCom Inc. and moved to Miami. He planned to convert the Raleigh mansion and 57 surrounding acres near Falls Lake Protected Wildlife Preserve into a 24-lot gated community.

Then in 2007, he put the property and mansion on the market for $32 million. Unfortunately for Loftin, the local housing market already was slumping, says Noel McDevitt, owner of Southern Pines-based McDevitt Sotheby’s International Realty, which listed the parcel. Tight credit and the high price kept potential buyers away. The property didn’t move even after Loftin sliced $12 million off the asking price last spring. In October, Raleigh-based RBC Bank seized 57 acres in exchange for $9 million it was owed, leaving the mansion and surrounding acreage for the auction block.

Wood says the bottom end of the Triangle housing market is doing well, thanks to low interest rates and federal tax credits for first-time and some repeat buyers. Midrange homes also are moving. But it’s slow above the $1 million mark. In 2006, 211 houses in Raleigh sold for that or more, according to Rocky Mount-based More Opportunity Research Enterprises. Last year, only 115 did.

Still, TMST could get lucky. “That’s a spectacular home, and the property is beautiful,” McDevitt says. “When those types of properties do sell, the offer often comes out of the blue. It’s just a matter of finding somebody to purchase it.”

RALEIGH — Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services added 280 jobs at its call center. The company, part of Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox, handles customer service for clients in financial services, health care and other sectors. It employs nearly 1,300 here, more than 3,500 statewide and also has call centers in Cary, Durham, Henderson and Charlotte.

CLAYTON — Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar laid off 121 workers. The heavy-equipment maker moved production of backhoes to the United Kingdom. It will make small wheel loaders here. The company says it still employs about 1,700 in North Carolina, mostly here and in Cary and Sanford.

CLAYTON — High Point-based New Breed plans to close a distribution center here this month, idling about 86. The logistics-services provider opened the warehouse in 2007. It handled distribution for Kansas City, Mo.-based Hallmark Cards, which is taking the work in-house.

DURHAMInspire Pharmaceuticals says it will continue to develop its drug Azasite as a treatment for blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids, though it failed to show significant improvements over existing treatments during clinical trials. The drug has been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration to treat bacterial conjunctivitis.

RALEIGHMcConnell Golf purchased the Reserve Golf Club of Pawleys Island in South Carolina for $522,075, giving it six country clubs. It also bought control of Prairie Village, Kan.-based ClubSoft North America, which makes software for golf-course operators. Terms weren’t disclosed.

RALEIGH — Wake County commissioners restored insurance coverage for county employees who have elective abortions. Commissioners overruled County Manager David Cooke, who had removed coverage citing a 1981 state Supreme Court decision that could be interpreted as restricting counties from paying for the procedure.

CHAPEL HILL — The two top executives at health insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina received raises in 2009 despite a 42% drop in net income to $107.3 million. Robert Greczyn Jr., who retired Feb. 1 as CEO, received total compensation of $4.1 million, while then chief operating officer Brad Wilson, who succeeded Greczyn, got $1.8 million. Both raises were about 2%.

RALEIGH — IBM will use software from Red Hat for its cloud-computing service. Red Hat sells and services the Linux computer-operating system and other software. Cloud computing uses networks of servers over the Internet to provide greater capacity and speed of operation. Red Hat wouldn’t comment on the financial ramifications of IBM’s endorsement.

RALEIGH — State Auditor Beth Wood paid $1,238 in past-due city and Wake County property taxes on her home here. She says payment, which includes interest, was delayed because of campaign debts, among other things.