Legal fight begins after California buyer scraps plans for $17 million purchase of Chattanooga mansion

Sale of Chickamauga Lake home would have been a record-breaking deal

Staff Photo by Dave Flessner / The 23,000-square-foot home of Bernice Sale on the Chickamauga Lake in Harrison includes 6 bedrooms, 6.5 baths. This photo was taken of the home in 2010.

The biggest home sale ever in Chattanooga was scheduled to close Tuesday when a California millionaire agreed to buy a 23,000-square-foot mansion on Chickamauga Lake for $17 million, or nearly twice as much as any previous residential sale in Hamilton County.

But after depositing $1 million into an escrow account for the lakefront home in December, Christopher R. Redlich of San Clemente, California, has decided to terminate his purchase agreement.

Bernice Sale, the current owner of the house at 6500 Solitude Drive in Harrison, is now suing Redlich and his agents to claim the deposit and other damages and injunctive relief from the canceled sale.

Sale, the chairman of the Dayton, Tennessee-based Simply Bank, built the six-bedroom, four-level mansion with her late husband David nearly two decades ago on two acres the couple originally bought in 1996, according to Hamilton County property records. The house was listed for sale most of last year with a $16.5 million asking price, the highest price ever for a residential listing in Hamilton County.

(READ MORE: Seller of Chattanooga's highest-priced home drops lawsuit over canceled sale)

The lakefront home has 6.5 bathrooms, a 3-car garage, multiple pools and abundant lake frontage to handle deep yachts. The house, which took years to develop and furnish, is listed by real estate agent James Perry, who called the mansion "a timeless masterpiece" on his website.

"This work of art is worthy of seven years of construction," Perry said in a description of the house on his website.

A YouTube video, labeled Chateau des Reves, or "House of Dreams," displays both indoor and outdoor pools and waterfalls and multiple indoor and outdoor living and dining areas.

According to court documents filed in Hamilton County Chancery Court, Sale entered into an agreement on Dec. 13, 2022 to sell her home for $17 million to Redlich and his family trust by Feb. 7, 2023. In a six-page lawsuit filed last week in Hamilton County Chancery Court, Sale's attorney, R. Wayne Peters, accused Redlich of breaching the sales contract and asks the court for her to keep the deposit and other damages.

Redlich, the chairman of the California-based nonprofit Healing Healthcare, previously chaired the Silicon Valley software companies Embarcadero Systems Corp. and MTC Holdings in California. He did not return phone calls or emails about his decision to terminate the house purchase in Chattanooga.

But in a seven-page response to the lawsuit, Redlich's attorney, John Konvalinka, said a title inspection on the lakefront property found there were road and waterfront easements on the property held by the Tennessee Valley Authority that could limit the value of the lakefront home.

Konvalinka said Sale and her agents had represented that there were no "encroachments, easements or similar items that may affect ownership" of the property. But Konvalinka said upon investigation, the buyers found deed restrictions on the property which give TVA the right to flood the site with backwater from the Chickamauga Dam "and do any and all other things which it deems necessary and desirable in the promotion and furtherance of public health, flood control and navigation."

Konvalinka also cited deed language that gives TVA the right "to disperse, spread or deposit above or upon the land" materials or air pollutants from nearby power plants.

Such deed restrictions are common on the lakes that TVA has created with its dams and reservoir system over its 89-year history. But such restrictions may have seemed different for Redlich from the oceanfront property he previously bought in San Clemente, California.

In 2021, Redlich purchased a mansion on the Pacific coast in San Clemente for $33.9 million, according to the real estate outlet MansionGobal. The oceanfront home is near Casa Romantica, which was known as Richard Nixon's western White House while he served as president.

The Chattanooga house was priced for only half what Redlich paid for his California mansion, but it is still the highest-valued home in Hamilton County, according to the Hamilton County Assessor's Office.

The Chickamauga lake home was built for Bernice and David Sale, a former owner of the Sale Auto Mall, who died in 2012. Bernice Sale was married to David Sale for 19 years after the death of her first husband, George Calfee, who founded and later sold the Calfee's Favorite Markets convenience store chain.

Among 17 houses currently listed above $1 million in the Chattanooga area, the Sale mansion is by far the highest-priced home, according to the Greater Chattanooga Realtors' multiple listing service.

Last year, two other mansions sold for the highest price ever for a residential sale in Hamilton County but those sales were only half of what Sale is seeking for her house.

Last fall, David and Kim Duplissey sold their 17,772-square-foot house along 26 acres on the Tennessee River at 502 Browns Ferry Road in Tiftonia for $8.7 million -- the highest price paid so far for a home in the Chattanooga area.

Earlier last year, the estate of the late Sharon Mills sold her mansion atop Elder Mountain for $4.9 million.

Contact Dave Flessner at or 423-757-6340.