Jonathan Chancellor is one of our authors. Jonathan has been writing about property since the early 1980s and is editor-at-large of Property Observer.

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Jonathan Chancellor

22 May 2013

Sir Peter Abeles' former Bellevue Hill mansion fetches $15,501,000

The former Bellevue Hill matrimonial home of the late transport tycoon Sir Peter Abeles was sold for $15,501,000  when offered at its invitation only onsite auction tonight.

Listed with $11 million-plus hopes, the property presented a rare opportunity as it last sold 45 years ago. The underbidders let it go after their $15.5 million offer.

There was on onsite crowd of just shy of 20 who made their way through the drizzle and up the crown land driveway into Sundorne, the well-hidden Tudor style six-bedroom Victoria Road mansion.

The opening bid was $8 million. It was announced on the market at around $11.5 million from whence it was just a two bidder contest. The 6.30 pm auction was a drawn out affair with Title Tattle only securing the result as attendees departed the home at 7.01 pm. The underbidder had sought to make contact, but was thwarted, with related parties who couldn't get to the auction, but presumably had the cash.

"Champion effort," the auctioneer was told by a colleague after the timewarp auction.

"Beyond our expectations," was the post-auction comment from the only attendees of Chinese descent.

Although not advertised as a private auction, a list of names signalled those allowed inside the home, and those who turned up and faced the locked door, as in Property Observer's case. At least three desirous attendees were turned away, along with leading Sydney estate agents. 

It had been home to Sir Peter and his first wife, the arts patron Claire Dan during the period when Sir Peter was cementing his place in Australia’s corporate life.

The two-storey home has interior furniture and fittings installed by Peter and Claire (pictured below). With ashtrays on every table, and wood-panelled walls it solicited comparisons with the 1960s-styled series Mad Men.


One can almost image Sir Peter playing poker with his regular guests who included the Premier, Sir Robert Askin.

The inspectees can even spot a lamp stand fashioned in the likeness of former ACTU boss and Prime Minister Bob Hawke that stands close to the large leather writing desk in the library that overlooks the water.

Sir Peter bought Sundorne from the well-connected establishment Simpson lawyer family in 1958 through his company P.A. Holdings Pty Ltd for about £60,000.


The couple had emigrated from Hungary in 1949 with little money in the post-war exodus from Europe.

The couple divorced a decade after purchasing Sundorne with Ms Dan retaining a life tenancy of the home set along the property’s very long and very private tree-lined drive. Ms Dan divorced Peter in 1968 after learning that his frequent absences from the marital home were because he was living with the then Katalin Frank, also known as Fischer, at the Wentworth Hotel. Sir Peter was knighted in 1972.


The 2550sq m site has a full-size flood-lit tennis court and in-ground pool with district and harbour views reaching from the city skyline and bridge to Manly in the north. After a long battle with cancer Sir Peter, who relocated to Vaucluse in 1970 paying $450,000 for Villa Igiea, died in June 1999 aged 75. As Sir Peter lay unconscious just hours before his death, Bob Hawke paid a visit to the Vaucluse home to bid his friend of 30 years a final farewell.

Ms Dan passed away last October.


The property is across the road from the Cranbrook School on the corner of Victoria Road and Rose Bay Avenue, which was known as Gallipoli Avenue until 1926.


Sundorne, at 23 Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill, was auctioned through Daniel Baran and Reece Coleman at BHR Estate Agents in conjunction with Sydney Sotheby's International agents Michael Pallier and Matt Ratcliffe.

The contents of the home including furniture and exceptional items from Claire Dan’s couture wardrobe will be auctioned by Andrew Shapiro of Shapiro Auctions on Sunday June 23.