Monday, February 23, 2009

Let's Talk Mega-Mansions

Is it just Your Mama or does it seem to everyone like more and more mega-mansions and insanely priced apartments are making their way to the market? Just this this week, two unbelievably lavish residences hit the market with elephantine asking prices of $53,000,000 and $85,000,000. And that was just in Los Angeles. Exceedingly high priced properties are, in fact, popping up all over. We thought about making a list of the 10 most expensive residences in the country, but it seems that the folks at Forbes already do that on a pretty regular basis. So we thought we'd narrow our focus a bit and have a look-see at 10 of the most expensive properties on the market in the Los Angeles area.

Before we begin, keep in mind that as far as we know–and we could be wrong–only one single family property has ever traded hands in the Los Angeles area for more than $50,000,000. that was when former Global Crossing chairman Gary Winnick paid a mind numbing $94,000,000 (approx.) for the Weber Mansion in Bel Air which records show has at least 20 terlits and several acres of manicured grounds that jut out on a promontory overlooking the Bel Air Country Club. That transaction, however, involved a complex asset trade rather than a straight trade of cash for property.

There are a number of instances when properties in the L.A. area have come close to breaking through the fifty million dollar ceiling including when Billionaire David Geffen paid a reported $47,500,000 (and some say more) for the 10-acre Jack Warner estate on Angelo Drive in Beverly Hills and tool tycoon Eric Smidt paid a reported $46,000,000 (some say $42,000,000) for The Knoll, the long time estate of billionaire biznessman Marvin Davis that sits on its own hilltop above Schuyler Road in Beverly Hills. In late 2008, records (and our sources) reveal that billionaire Tom Gores parted with $56,000,000 for two adjacent properties on super swank Siena Way in Bel Air, including the massive mansion that once belonged to Verna Harrah, the widow of casino magnate Bill Harrah, as in the Harrah's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. But that doesn't really count since that deal involved two single family homes rather than just one.

What all that means, of course, is that any L.A. area property priced over fifty million clams is a bit of a tough sell, particularly in the crappy economy with which we're currently coping.

Now children, please, Before y'all get to sending Your Mama a slew of nasty and hateful email berating us for not including this mansion or that chateau on our little list, keep in mind that we are aware our list of prodigiously priced properties is incomplete. Okaaay? If you want to be helpful, which is always nicer than being an angry, seething asshole, send us a nice little note pointing us towards one of the outrageously priced properties we did not include.

Okay, here we go...

1. The Beverly House / Owned by attorney/financier Leonard Ross, the historic N. Beverly Drive estate was listed in late 2007 with a coma inducing asking price of $165,000,000. Surely there were some looky-loos but no one willing to cough up that kind of cash because the 6.25 acre estate which was once owned by William Randolph Hearst was yanked from the open market in Sept. of 2008 and remains unsold. The property is no longer advertised on the open market, but we understand from a very successful property pusher in the Platinum Triangle that the 20,000+ square foot monster is "always for sale at unheard of prices."

2. The Manor / It has long been whispered and speculated that tee-vee titan Aaron Spelling's not always talked nicely about widow Candy was interested in selling her 56,000+ square foot behemoth on S. Mapleton Drive in the Holmby Hills. In fact, at one point it was widely rumored and even reported that she unloaded her architectural white elephant to an Arab prince for $130,000,000. She didn't. However, now that's she's reportedly forked over a reported $47,000,000 so that she can "downsize" to an (approx.) 16,000 square foot doo-plex penthouse at the yet to be completed The Century building in Century City, it's no surprise she's finally getting serious about selling. According to a source we call Nelly Knowsitall, the 11 bedroom and 16 bathroom hotel-sized house is going on the market very soon with a heart stopping asking price in the $140-150,000,000 range. When asked who was going to be listing the property, the usually in the know Ms. Knowsitall would not name names but did say she heard there will be two listing agents, one obvious choice and one much less obvious choice who "has never sold a house over $10,000,000 in her life." Ouch.

3. Fleur de Lys / Owned by Swedish born philanthropist Suzanne Saperstein, who was granted the outlandish extravagance known as Fleur de Lys in her bitter dee-vorce from Texas tycoon David Saperstein, the 35,000 square foot mega-manse (some reports say 45,000) has been on the open market since July of 2007 with a sky-high asking price of $125,000,000. We understand from someone who would know that the property has been toured by many magnates and foreign born billionaires, but after more than 18 months on the market, the 12 bedroom and 15 bathroom faux-French pile remains the biggest jewel in the couture-luving glamazon's real estate portfolio. The dee-lishusly catty Kenny Kissintell, a man who loves dishing real estate dirt even more than Your Mama, recently whispered in our big ear that he heard from his bean spilling peeps that Miz Saperstein did received an offer of $88,000,000 from a "Chinese gentleman," but turned it down. We imagine she's probably using one of her many Louboutin stilettos to beat her own ass for not running with that ball when she had a chance.

4. The Singleton Estate / Designed by noted architect Wallace Neff and built on a 7-acre spread in the Homlby Hills, the 15,000+ square foot Southern Colonial style residence was built by Teledyne tycoon Henry Singleton and was listed for sale in January of 2008 with an asking price of $85,000,000. Shortly after being listed to pomp and press, the 10 bedroom and 11.5 bathroom house on dee-luxe Delfern Drive disappeared from the MLS prompting some to speculate that a deep pocketed buyer was pushing forward with a sale. That, as it turns out, was not the case as no transfer records appear in public records. However, according to the always knowledgeable Nelly Knowsitall, the property is currently leased by hi-tech tycoon Halsey Minor who, according to Ms. Knowsitall, also has an option to purchase the place for a whopping $65,000,000. Given Mister Minor's alleged option to purchase, it's unclear to Your Mama whether this property is still, technically, for sale. However, should Mister Minor and family end up walking away from their purchase option and choose to move on to a home of their own, we're sure this property will land back on the open market with an asking price well in excess of $50,000,000.

5. Le Belvedere / The newest member of the mega-manse club to arrive on the open market belongs to real estate developer Mohamed Hadid and carries a porcine asking price of $85,000,000. The Nimes Road residence measures in at approximately 48,000 square feet and, as far as we're concerned, if this hotel-sized house were a person it would wear Versace head to toe, drive, a white Rolls Royce and go around screaming, "I have so much more money than you!" The 10 bedroom and 14 bathroom house sits on a 2.2 acre parcel in a choice section of Bel Air and the owner claims to have spent a jaw dropping $59,000,000 building the behemoth.

6. The Chadwick Beach House / Ever since July of 2008, real estate investment magnate William Chadwick has been trying to dump his ocean front spread in Malee-boo for the swollen sum of $65,000,000. According to listing information, the Cape Cod-ish style mansion on covetable Carbon Beach measures approximately 10,500 square feet and contains 6 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms including a sprawling 2,100 square foot ocean view master suite. The property spans an almost unheard of 150 feet on Malee-boo's most exclusive and expensive stretch of sand and includes over 4,500 square feet of decking and a 75-foot long beach side swimming pool and spa.

7. The Robert Taylor Ranch / Also listed at a staggering $65,000,000 is the Robert Taylor Ranch in the Mandeville Canyon area of Brentwood. Currently owned by former radio station owner Ken Roberts, the secluded 112-acre spread includes a main residence designed by renowned California architect Robert Byrd that includes 6 principle bedrooms, a three-apartment staff wing, four fireplaces, a screening room, wine cellar and a private casino/game room. Additionally there are four guest houses, a total of 17 full and 5 partial bathrooms, equestrian facilities, swimming pool and tennis court. The property has been for sale since the dawn of time with several different asking prices ranging from $35,000,000 to its current $65,000,000. At one point, the property was scheduled to be auctioned off to the hightest bidder and, at another point not too long ago, Our Fairy Godmother in Brentwood whispered in our big ear that the property was sliding into foreclosure, although it does not appear to be the situation now.

8. PickFair (or what used to be PickFair) / Once upon a time legendary architect Wallace Neff turned a humble hunting lodge into a legendary house on Summit Drive in Beverly Hills for legendary silver screen icons Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford which they called PickFair. The 22-room sprawler was later owned by L.A. Lakers owner Jerry Buss who sold it to much maligned singer/ack-tress Pia Zadora and her much older huzand Mishulam Riklis. Much to the chagrin of just about everybody, Zadora and Riklis tore down the original residence and replaced it with a 25,000+square foot monstrosity with 17 bedrooms and an incomprehensible 30 bathrooms. Now owned by Korean born bizness baron Corry Hong, the hill topping house has been listed since September of 2008 as a $60,000,000 fixer upper. That's right puppies, a sixty million dollar fixer upper.

9. La Belle Vie / Also new to the suddenly over-populated Los Angeles area mega-mansion market is philanthropist Iris Cantor's palatial Platinum Triangle mansion known as La Belle Vie that recently appeared on the open market with a staggering asking price of $53,000,000. Measuring in at around 35,000 square feet with 9 bedrooms and a total of 21 bathrooms, the 18th-century style pile was built in the 1990s with what would appear to be a limitless budget.

10. The Hutton House Estate / Located on a 5.2+ acre promontory high above Benedict Canyon and (according to listing information) modeled after Le Petit Trianon at Versailles, The Hutton House Estate was recently put on the market with an asking price of $49,000,000. It's unclear to Your Mama why it's called The Hutton House Estate and it's our understanding it's owned by a Korean woman whose money comes from hospitals or commercial real estate or something like that. The property records are a bit murky on this one so although we would not recommend repeating this like it's the gospel, it appears the unfinished property was purchased at auction in January of 2007 for just under $17,000,000, then finished by the new owners and flipped back on the market with a stupefying $32,000,000 price increase. Records on file with the County of Los Angeles show the house measures just over 22,000 square feet with 8 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms, however listing information indicates the chunky chateau has 7 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms.

Our little list of ten mega-mansions on the market in Los Angeles does not even begin to include the large number of estates that occupy the next rung down own the property price ladder that are being shopped both on and off market. Houses in that still hatefully and largely prohibitively expensive $20-45,000,000 category include Cher's Italian Renaissance style extravaganza in Malibu listed at $45,000,000 and a 10 bedroom and 13 bathroom spec built house high above Mandeville Canyon on Chalon Road that happens to sit just up the hill from California Governator Arnold Scwharzenegger's house and carries an asking price of $34,900,000. About a month ago, big biznessman Lou Gonda, who reportedly lost big with the collapse of insurance giant AIG, quietly floated his 1.5 acre Beverly Hills estate on Lexington Road with an off-market asking price of $42,000,000 which was just days later reduced to $35,000,000; Although we can not swear by the veracity of the rumor, we also hear from Our Fairy Godmother in Beverly Hills that Steven Udvar-Házy, another billionaire who apparently did not dump enough of his massive stake in AIG before it went kaplooey, is quietly shopping his vast estate in the 24/7 guard gated Beverly Park community for God only knows how much.

And that's just in Los Angeles. There are plenty of properties priced well above $50,000,000 all over the United States (and the world) including (but certainly not limited to) Robert Friedland's $65,000,000 estate in beautiful Belvedere, CA and car dealer Terry Taylor's Addison Mizner designed digs in Palm Beach, FL which carries an astonishing asking price of $72,500,000. There are also, of course, any number of monumentally expensive properties in New York City such as retail mogul Les Wexner's sprawling Fifth Avenue aerie which is "discreetly available" off-market with a reported asking price of $60,000,000, and skin-care guru Sandie Tillotson's off-market Time Warner Center penthouse which is rumored and reported to have a butt clenching $80,000,000 asking price.

One of Your Mama's better connected sources, a ladee who well understands both uber high end real estate and the tangled machinations of Wall Street, told us recently that she's not at all surprised so many properties at the very tippy-top of the market are popping up for sale. Not only have many very rich people lost considerable sums of money due to the economic tsunami that has hit the United States (and the world), the days of being able to borrow forty bucks for every dollar in your pocket are long gone. See puppies, like so many Americans, many filthy rich folks also used the equity in their homes like bottomless piggy banks in order to finance an even more lavish life than they could otherwise afford and have now been caught with their financial pants around their ankles. Not to worry, most will never go hungry, but they may none the less be forced to scale back their lifestyle and shed some of their excess and expensive to maintain real estate baggage.

We will all have to wait and see what happens to all these mansions and apartments with twenty, forty and $50,000,000+ price tags. No doubt, there are still plenty of unfathomably rich people who can well afford them. However, the question seems to be, how many of these freakishly rich people still want to buy these shockingly expensive trophy homes not to mention take on all the attendant hassles and crippling costs that go hand in hand with owning, running and maintaining such large scale properties?

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