The Guy With the Most Perfect Life in the World Just Sold One of the Slickest Penthouses in Chicago

For $2.4 million, someone got a pretty nice place—and a killer Japanese garden—at the top of the Contemporaine in River North.

A recently sold River North penthouse

Photo: Dennis Rodkin

List Price: $2.495 million
Sale Price: $2.4 million
The Property: Jon Butcher is the head of two companies: One manufactures doe-eyed figurines, designed by his dad, and another helps people turn their goals and mementos into their own inspirational leather-bound books. He also owned, until recently, one of Chicago’s slickest penthouses, on the top floor of the Contemporaine

Because of the sheer fabulosity of his company-running, globe-trotting, penthouse-living life, Butcher was described a few years ago by a motivational speaker as having “the most perfect life in the world.”

Butcher runs Precious Moments, Inc, the company built around the artwork of his father, Sam Butcher whose cute little Precious Moments characters first appeared on greeting cards in 1975 and then in 1978 rolled out on a still-popular line of figurines. It’s now a multi-billion-dollar company, its characters appearing on everything from Christmas ornaments to tombstones. Separately, Jon Butcher also runs Lifebook, a program for enshrining one’s own goals, photos and other motivational stuff in a keepsake book. To see Jon Butcher describe what Lifebook is all about, click on “Watch our welcome video” here.

While Precious Moments is headquartered in Carthage Missouri, for the past several years Jon Butcher’s “most perfect” life has included two Chicago-area homes: a 21-acre estate in St. Charles that they have owned since at least 2002 and whose lavish gardens I wrote about in 2006, and the River North penthouse. Butcher and his wife, Melissa, bought in River North in 2004 after selling a 63rd-floor condo in the Bloomingdale’s building for $4.2 million. That condo had an indoor Japanese garden. For a Deal Estate article from the time that isn’t in our digital archives, Jon Butcher told me that at the new place, at the just-completed Contemporaine, he wanted to have a “killer Japanese garden.”

He got it. The work of Portland, Oregon, landscape designer Hoichi Kurisu, the garden is pretty spectacular, as seen on Kurisu’s website (click on “Chicago 02, Illinois”). It’s got manicured trees, boulders, a waterfall and an all-around serene presence there on the 14th-floor rooftop. It complements the super-cool concrete and glass architecture of the building, designed by Ralph Johnson, one of the most highly regarded architects working in Chicago today, with spectacular projects here and around the world to his credit.

According to the motivational speaker linked above, the Butchers typically spend half of each year living in an exotic place like Bali or Cairo. This could help explain why for the past few years, both of their Chicago properties have been on the market. The Contemporaine penthouse first went up for sale in June 2011 with an asking price of $3.4 million. The St. Charles property, which first went on the market in May 2004 but hasn’t been for sale continuously since then, is now priced at $7.9 million.

The Butchers did not respond to a phone call requesting comment, and the buyers aren’t identified in public records yet. The sale closed May 10.

Price Points: In 2004, the Butchers paid $1.5 million for the Contemporaine penthouse and its 3,000-square-foot deck. The cost to install the Japanese garden is not known, so there’s no way to estimate what profit, if any, they made after nine years in the home. Debra Dobbs, the listing agent on both the River North and St. Charles properties, said she did not know the cost of the landscaping.

Listing Agent: Debra Dobbs, 312-307-4909 and debra@debradobbs.com

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