Mekelburg’s ‘Over the Top’ Estates

Mekelburg’s ‘Over the Top’ Estates

Philip Mekelburg put a new face on luxury travel made glamorous and easy.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Poolside at the Equity Estates property in Napa Valley, California.
Poolside at the Equity Estates property in Napa Valley, California.

Philip Mekelburg is founder and CEO of the residence fund, Equity Estates, a leader in shared ownership in the luxury vacation home market since 2006.

Equity Estates is a private offering that aggregates ownership and use of vacation homes…but these are not just anyone’s cribs and digs as shelter. Equity Estates offers families a way to own and use a wide selection of “magazine fabulous” vacation homes between $3 million and $5 million each.

Mekelburg explained, “It’s collective asset ownership, and we are stewards with a charter to care for the homes and the investors when they travel to them with concierge support and housekeeping. We call it a “Luxury Residence Fund.” Some send employees for perks, others do guys, girls and friend trips. After 10 years, we sell the homes and share the hopeful profits. Between now and then, the investors share in the upkeep and maintenance at cost which is way below retail rental rates.”

Here’s how Equity works: They have 30-plus full-time employees and more than 100 independent contractors, all working to service over 50 luxury homes and upwards of 750 investors. Although they have a small finance office in Sandy Springs, they are basically a virtual company.

The Great Room, inside an Equity Estates’ property located in Florence, Italy.

They have raised and deployed more than $250 million, with the minimum investment being around $350,000; an executive membership interest offers 15 allotted nights of travel; they also offer elite and advantage levels (30 and 45 nights); finally, each investor must be an accredited investor.

Mekelburg had his metaphorical “light bulb moment” when he attended a wedding at The Temple. A friend was chatting about a country club of private homes, (aka. Destination Club). In that scenario, the owner of the club owned the homes and members paid a large deposit and dues, without any possible upside, nor fiduciary responsibilities. Mekelburg concluded, “It didn’t make sense to me, and that company ultimately went bankrupt, ironically.”

Backing up to child “biz prodigy,” Mekelburg grew up on Long Island, and moved south in the early 1990s after graduating Cornell University.

Phil Mekelburg, a graduate of Cornell University, got inspired by marketing, hospitality, and travel at a young age.

Mekelburg took another route working for a consulting firm in Charleston, S.C., where took on a summer internship much to his parents’ chagrin.

“They wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer, or at least some type of ‘professional’ like a CPA and stay closer to home,” he shared. Within months, he secured a full-time job there.

Moving to Atlanta in 1995, he worked in business development, marketing, and operations. Here, he met wife, Kirsten, and they have two children, Sarah, 16, and Elliot, 13, and dog, Ozzie. Sandy (“Mimi”) Mekelburg lives nearby.

Tall oaks grow from acorns, and in high school, Mekelburg sold seats on the ski trip bus. He recalled, “The trips were epic from a teenagers’ point of view– two buses, 100 kids and one chaperone. It would never fly now.” Then, he received the local Board of Education Award for Leadership and Service and labeled him, “Mr. Farmington.”

Regarding his working side hustles in high school, he said “I got a little over extended, and still live that way. I lost my brother in seventh grade, so I’d keep myself busy with after school sports and clubs as distractions. I was then fortunate to go on two school trips to Europe, and that’s when I began to appreciate traveling.”

Just a few of Equity Estates’ prized locations are located in: Bali, Puglia, Ibiza, Vienna, Prague, Paris, Florence, Marrakech, Dubai, Lake Tahoe, Phuket, Big Sky, and Cape Town.

Phil’s Five Favorite Equity Properties
* Wine Country, California — nestled amongst vineyards with an authentic pizza oven and pool
* Thompson Cove, Turks & Caicos — huge ocean front home with a stellar snorkel reef
* Big Sky, Montana — Next to Moonlight Basin Lake Lodge
* Florence, Italy — in historic town center
* Playa Palmilla, Mexico — Breathtaking views of the Sea of Cortez; see whales from the patio

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