The three tracts that made up the combined estate had sold just three years before for about $10 million in total, a 240 percent markup.
Five Roads Stowe, the limited liability company that purchased the Edson Hill property, expanded its holdings a year later when it bought the Stowehof Inn property for $7.5 million, bringing the estate to more than 200 acres.
The Stowehof purchase was initially made by a shell corporation, Stowe Woods and Slopes, registered to Fritz Burkard, a mega-wealthy heir to a Swiss industrial fortune, and transferred to Five Roads Stowe.
Stowe land records show the shell corporation was then merged into Five Roads Stowe, which was previously governed by lawyer Edward French of Stackpole and French, and Barbara Gordon, Burkard’s mother-in-law.
The 2018 purchase of the initial three-tract piece on Edson Hill was made by Wiessner LLC, an homage to Edson Hill’s publicly accessible Wiessner Woods, from the Hirschfeld Vermont Revocable Trust.
Wiessner LLC, also governed by Gordon, profited by nearly $24 million when it sold the land to Burkard. As of 2019, Burkard was married to Gordon’s daughter, Jennifer Burkard.
Multiple consent documents filed with the from August 2021 through February 2023 authorized Gordon to conduct business on behalf of Burkard across multiple corporations, including Stowe Woods and Slopes, Stowe Hearts LLC, Stowehof Owner LLC and Wiessner LLC.
When reached for comment in 2021, Gordon said the sale was “no one’s business” and real estate agent Pall Spera, who helped broker the deal, agreed.
French recently declined to comment.
While millionaires have long owned homes among the hills of Stowe, Burkard comes from a family worth billions, particularly following the sale of its controlling stake in the Swiss chemical company founded by a great grandfather.
In 2014, Burkard, along with family members Urs, Gabriella, Monica and Carmita, attempted to abruptly sell their controlling stake in Sika, the hundred-year-old, Zurich-based chemical company founded by Kaspar Winkler, to the French construction and materials conglomerate Saint-Gobain at an 80 percent premium.
The surprise sale launched a bitter feud between the Burkards, Sika management and other shareholders. According to a 2016 New York Times article, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s investment vehicle was brought into the fray, as it owned 5 percent of Sika, and the foundation accused the family of valuing individual greed over respect for shareholder protections.
That same year, Swiss courts found that the Burkards’ attempt to sell their shares and control of the company without the consent of other Sika shareholders and management was unlawful, but the family finally managed to push a deal through with Saint-Gobain and ultimately sold their shares for $3.21 billion in 2018, according to Marketwatch, the same year Fritz Burkard’s mother-in-law began buying up land on Edson Hill.
Burkard is also actively involved in the international bobsled and skeleton community, and even made an unsuccessful outsider run for the presidency of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation in 2021, according to the Olympic news publications Around the Rings.
Gordon’s ex-husband and Jennifer Burkard’s father, Lloyd L. “Monty” Gordon, was a founding member of the Canadian Olympic bobsled team, and competed in Olympic games with the team, according to an obituary published in the Stowe Reporter in 2019.
Fritz Burkard also boasts a collection of some of the rarest cars in the world. His so-called “Pearl Collection” is set to be honored this September at the Concours of Elegance 2023 at Hampton Court Palace in London. The collection contains extremely rare models from automakers like Bugatti, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and others.
With his 200-acre plus estate now established, Burkard and his representatives have attempted to stop his neighbors from reducing the size of their individual properties.
French attended a July 17 meeting of the Stowe Development Review Board on behalf of Burkard and fellow Edson Hill property owner Boulder Spring Farm to try to block the subdivision of a property owned by American-born Greek Orthodox priest and hedge fund manager Emmanuel Lemelson.
Lemelson wanted to break up his 28-acre property into three separate lots and make a private Orthodox chapel on the property the primary building of one of the lots, along with planned future developments. Lemelson did not respond to a request for comment.
While citing other alleged conflicts between the subdivision and the chapel’s previous Stowe zoning approval, French primarily argued that the area consists of “large estate lots” and that the breaking up of the property into approximately 5 acre lots would “negatively affect the area,” though a neighbor at the hearing, Kevin D’Arcy, confirmed his property was just over 4 acres.
French also tried to argue that the chapel should have been reviewed by the board when it was first built and not simply approved, but the board issued verbal approval for both of Lemelson’s requests at the meeting.
This article was updated on 8/11/2023 to reflect that Emmanuel Lemelson sought to subdivide his 28-acre property, not 16-acre property.