TAMPA — The 1961 concrete-block house isn’t fancy, but renter Fred Akers, a 63-year-old mailman who lives there, said it’s got the “bare necessities” and he likes his neighborhood.
It has something in common with two other homes, a few blocks away, which are so close to Busch Gardens that its roller coasters loom large at the end of the street and the delighted screams of riders ring clearly through the air.
They are among hundreds of homes around Tampa Bay — particularly concentrated in Hillsborough County — owned by a real estate investment company that counts several heirs to the French luxury goods company Hermès among its investors. While the Hermès family is among the wealthiest in the world, with an estimated net worth approaching $64 billion, the homes owned by the investment company are much more modest, typically worth under $150,000. That’s less than what versions of Hermès’ signature Birkin handbag, prized by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, have fetched at auction.
The heirs’ stake in the company, which owns more than a thousand homes across Florida and hundreds more in other Southern states, is now public thanks to a new law in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a tiny European country nearly 5,000 miles from Akers’ home. The country has historically been a haven for the ultra-wealthy by offering favorable tax conditions and confidentiality.