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Business Observer Monday, Aug. 1, 2022 4 months ago

Unique waterfront home that once belonged to ABBA hits the market

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The Swedish pop stars traveled to Tierra Verde to help design the house but it's unclear how much, if at all, they inhabited it.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Calling all Dancing Queens, Super Troupers and anyone named Fernando: The home of your ABBA fandom dreams might be up for sale. Mamma Mia!

Make no mistake: The house, located at 873 Second Ave. S. in Tierre Verde, a waterside community sandwiched between South St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach, is on the market for $3.95 million. But its connection to the Swedish pop superstars is, shall we say, a bit unclear.

Pinellas County Property Appraiser records confirm the 4,527-square-foot home, built in 1982 in the Swedish longhouse style — consisting of two identical wings with two bedrooms and two baths with shared rooms in the middle, plus two detached garages — is linked to John Spalding, ABBA’s longtime manager. The lot was purchased by a company called Andante Music Ltd., and the song “Andante, Andante” appears on ABBA’s Super Trouper album, released in 1980.

But whether the band ever stayed at the property after it was completed is uncertain. To wit: By late 1982, ABBA had, for all intents and purposes, broken up, with Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, one of the two married couples who made up the group, announcing their divorce the previous year. The marriage of Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus, meanwhile, dissolved in 1979 but the couple remained active in the band.

However, discussions on the social media website Reddit have raised the possibility ABBA members did, in fact, frequent Tierra Verde.

“If you dive down the Reddit rabbit hole, you will see people on that thread [claim they] saw them around town, saw them sunbathing nude in the backyard, things like that,” says Elise Ramer, a spokeswoman for Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, the property’s listing agency. “But there’s no photographic proof.”

One commenter in a Reddit section devoted to St. Petersburg, who goes by the handle Sensitive_Brother845, says his parents bought the home and left some its ABBA-related contents, including a custom sound system, untouched. Also, the fact that the collapse of both marriages didn’t completely derail the band could explain why the Tierra Verde house was built with two separate wings — perhaps one for the men, and one for the women?

ABBA as they appeared in 1974. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/AVRO)

“I never saw them personally,” says Randy Ierna, associate manager of Century 21’s Tierra Verde office. In the 1980s, Ierna worked alongside Barbara Callahan, the now-deceased real estate agent who represented Andante Music Ltd. in the 1986 sale. “The major players are all gone, but I was told personally by the builder, Harold Carlson, that it was for the rock group ABBA.”

Ierna, however, says the ABBA house was designed by St. Pete Beach resident Ralph Lickton, who is in his late 70s and still designs houses, doing business as Ralph Orville Lickton, Designer. Lickton confirmed to the Business Observer he met personally with the ABBA band members at the property to discuss the look and layout of the home. He met with them in a construction trailer belonging to Carlson, the homebuilder, who has since died. 

“I met the two couples in the contractor’s construction trailer, and I don’t think they all spoke English, but maybe I’m wrong,” Lickton recalls. “We had a preliminary discussion about [the design]. When the house was completed, they came over and I did one walkthrough with them, but they used it only briefly. I think they used it on one other trip when they did a show somewhere in the U.S. I think they had some of their people, maybe production people, stay there, but it was barely used.”

ABBA biographer Carl Magnus, however, is skeptical about the intent and use of the property.

The members of ABBA helped design the home but it's unclear how often, if it all, they stayed at the property after it was built. (Photo courtesy of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty)

"I have heard about this house and its alleged connections to ABBA," he writes in an email to the Business Observer. "To me, it sounds very unlikely that the group, or even any of its members, ever stayed at this house ... in 1982 the furthest thing from their minds would have been to invest in a property which they would be using as a group. But anything is possible, of course. I’m thinking that maybe the house was bought as some kind of investment, on behalf of the group or one of their companies, but beyond that I have no theories."

The remainder of the 1980s was a prolonged stretch of inactivity for ABBA, and in December 1986, the Tierra Verde property was sold to Jayne Mossberg, wife of Alan Mossberg and mother of Iver and Jonathan Mossberg, scions of the O.F. Mossberg & Sons Inc. firearms company, for $510,000. Jayne Mossberg, a resident of Tierra Verde and Branford, Connecticut, died Oct. 16, 2019, and her husband died Nov. 6, 2021.

ABBA has created digital versions of their younger selves, also known as ABBAtars, for their new concert residency in London. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/BugWarp)

Coincidentally, the Mossberg family traces its roots to Sweden, which might explain their interest in the ABBA house. Ierna says his agency tried to get the listing for the house, but the Mossberg family went with Premier Sotheby’s. He says he had discussions with Jonathan Mossberg, who resides in Pompano Beach and is the CEO of both Mossberg Group Inc. and Kalashnikov USA, according to his LinkedIn profile. However, it’s unclear whether Jonathan Mossberg is the same person who was posting on Reddit as Sensitive_Brother845.

If $3.95 million is too much for a unique piece of ABBA history, don’t despair: Riding a wave of resurgent interest in its music that included the hit musical Mamma Mia! and movie of the same name, the group reformed and last year released a new album, Voyage. It followed that up in May with the kickoff of ABBA Voyage, a virtual residency in London that, with a budget of $175 million, features concerts performed by digital versions, or ABBAtars, of the band members as they appeared in their heyday. The concert series is set to run until May 2023 at the purpose-built ABBA Arena in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

“I wish I could go to London to experience that,” Ramer says. “It looks like so much fun.”

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