Star Trek Style Living
An exclusive interview with billionaire Marc Bell and his $35 million sci-fi-themed Boca Raton mansion
by Dale King and Julia Hebert
Captain’s Log, Star Date 09-01-2014, Commander Marc Bell recording. A mystery still plagues everyone on board. With the exception of the bridge, the entire ship has been transformed into a large, two-story house with eight bedrooms and 16 bathrooms, three bars, a gym and a wine cellar. This transformation seems to emanate from an earth outpost called Boca Raton. More mysterious is the presence of an apparently inactive member of the Borg Collective in a display case on board along with an ancient 20th century robot named Robbie. I must report this to Starfleet Command.
With a “whoosh” of the turbolift doors, Marc Bell steps out of his sci-fi characterization as commander of a 24th century starship, the USS Bell (sister ship of the USS Enterprise 1701D, no doubt), and back into his 21st century role of entrepreneur, husband, father and owner of a house that’s the envy of the neighborhood. In reality, he is manager of Marc Bell Capital Partners, a firm that invests in entertainment ventures, publishing, the Internet and real estate. He loves science fiction – particularly Star Trek in all incarnations – and a visit to his 27,000 square-foot manse in the quiet, gated community of Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton is proof.
Entering the Galactic Core
Visitors enter through an arched doorway leading to a vast foyer. Stairways bordered by ornate wrought iron railings wind upward to the second floor. On the entry-level walls are Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup can paintings. Bell has a preference for Warhol’s works as well as those of M.C. Escher, the 20th century illustrator who developed a style, which, like science fiction, juggles orientation and space in surrealistic ways. Rooms are elegantly appointed, a process Bell left to an interior designer. His direction was simple: “Put in whatever looks good.”
There’s also a “Call to Duty” room, based on the video game and set up like the mobile Army hospital seen on M*A*S*H. The kitchen is large enough to accommodate guests comfortably. “All roads lead to the kitchen. It’s where people congregate. We made it big enough for people to stand across from one another.” His wife, Jennifer, is a gourmet cook.
The master of the house draws attention to his 2,000 square-foot arcade room. “I’ve been a big arcade fan since I was a kid,” says Bell, looking out over 60 arcade and pinball machines – many with a Star Trek or Star Wars theme. “This is my playroom, not the kids’. They have their own.” Bell says he collects video playthings from 1978 through 1982 and restores them to working condition.
How Bell Earned his Billions
A New York City boy, he took an early interest in math.
“When I was 16, I wanted to create the largest data center in the world. My dad took me to one of his clients who had a data center that was the size of a small closet. I was enamored of it. Fifteen years later, I had the world’s largest data center” when he was chairman and CEO of Globix, a company he founded in 1989 as Bell Technology Group. By the mid-1990s, thanks to investments that paid off, Bell
expanded. And when the company went public in 2000, “it was worth $2.5 billion,” he says.
Bell was not always in the “billions with a b” arena. Early on, he lived in a 650 square-foot apartment that “didn’t have room for a kitchen table.” At the office, where he worked “120 hours a week for 10 years,” he and colleagues “used to sit and play video games on the computer all night long. We said, ‘There must be lots of other people with no lives to play video games with.’ So we started an online service called GameNet.” It was the first to use the Internet to connect video gamesters – and it was a major success, he says. GameNet begat Globix, which grew into a provider of corporate Internet solutions wa worldwide workforce of more than 1,000.
“I loved what I was doing,” assesses Bell. But history would soon mess that up. The terrorist attacks of September 2001 happened. “We had an Internet data center near the World Trade Centers. After the attacks, no one wanted to be in that area. The market changed. And the 9/11 attacks caused me to move to Florida to explore endeavors there.” He founded Marc Bell Capital Partners in 2003 and also acquired some vast, online properties that kept him busy through 2012, when he stepped back to his own firm.
Data, Video Games – Then Broadway
On advice of a buddy, Bell invested in several Broadway shows, including Jersey Boys, The Wedding Singer, August: Osage County, Rock of Ages and A Catered Affair. Unexpectedly, Jersey Boys and Osage paid off big. Both won Tony awards, and the Jersey Boys soundtrack nabbed a Grammy. A film version launched in June.
Back to Home Base
But this is all just reality. Star Trek was Bell’s inspiration for the house. “The room designed like the bridge of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation (the one featuring Captain Picard, not Captain Kirk) was the first part to be built,” he says. “It is actually a home theater with more than 3,000 digitized movies,” including every Star Trek episode. “Everything else in the house came later.” The home, which took four years to build, stands on the site of two former houses that Bell bought and demolished.
Remarkably, that house is for sale – for $35 million, the highest-priced home ever to hit the Boca Raton market. The Bell family is moving to Miami where Marc is building another dwelling – even bigger than the Boca mansion – one that will emphasize his interest in art.
With a heart and mind for business, friendship, fun and a bit of risk-taking, Bell says, philosophically, “You only live life once. You have to enjoy every day.”