Since way back in September 2000, the gold medal for priciest house ever sold in LA (or all of Southern CA, for that matter) has been held by a gigantic estate that sits practically right on top of the hoity-toitiest golf course in all of LA: the Bel Air Country Club. Casa Encantada, as it is known, was sold that year by Dole foods magnate David Murdock to Gary Winnick, a former billionaire courtesy of the dot-com boom. Though the transaction was actually a non-standard sale involving at least $70 million in cash and not one but two parcels of vacant Bel Air land, the agreed-upon total sale value was widely known to be $94,000,000.
It’s not like others haven’t trained and strained to capture the podium’s top spot in the sixteen years since. Back in 2011, everyone’s favorite lady-around-town Candy Spelling came pretty close with her $85,000,000 cash sale to Petra Ecclestone. The silver medal was locked up.
Turns out, as records eventually revealed, the all-cash deal for the Holmby Hills house actually went down for “just” $88,300,000. Folks involved in the deal attempted to explain that discrepancy by saying the extra cash was for furnishings. But Ms. Saperstein had held an $8.2 million auction of most of the estate’s contents just two years prior to the sale. So what the hell was worth $14 million?! Let Yolanda go on the record and say she believes that $102 million was entirely hogwash, a tragic, silly, and rather desperate marketing tool predictably gone awry. Fleur de Lys: Disqualified!
See, kiddies? That’s what happens when you start using performance-enhancing drugs. Yolanda shows no mercy. There will be no cheatin’ up in this bitch.
Oh — the buyer of FDL? Well, for a long time we (and most others) assumed it was billionaire Michael Milken because his family foundation office handles the property tax payments for the estate. Lately, however, we have heard from an always-correct powerhouse source that Mr. Milken is, in fact, not the actual owner — he’s just frontin’ for someone else even richer than he. And that person’s name is…
Wait a minute! We surely digress. So sorry, kids. That’s a story for another day.
Anyway, in addition to those two huge-but-not-huge-enough transactions, several other stillborn sales since then have attempted to take the record. There was David Geffen’s cancelled escrow to sell his Carbon Beach compound to an unnamed out-of-state couple for $85 million (or maybe even more, we’ll never know). And then there was the tragic late-term abortion of the Playboy Mansion sale, which had been in the works for somewhere around $110 or even $120 million. RIP! But there’s always next season’s tryouts.
But lo! From yonder hills, hope springs anew! Dry your tears, for now cometh the dark horse. Yes, kiddies. There’s yet another sale in the works that we predict will cut extremely close to that ancient $94 million transaction that predates 9/11. And we firmly believe this sale is actually going to close. All hope is not lost! Olympia, woman, gird your loins!
As was first reported by the legend herself, the equally legendary “Owlwood Estate” in Holmby Hills is currently in escrow for an amount widely rumored to be somewhere between $90,000,000 and $100,000,000.
The (rumored) buyer is, you may be surprised to learn, not some big-name Forbes 400 stalwart but rather a firm called Woodbridge Structured Funding. We’ve also seen the somewhat-mysterious outfit referred too as “Woodbridge Investments”, “Woodbrige Mortgage”, “Woodbridge Realty”, and “Woodbridge Luxury Homes“.
Who exactly is Woodbridge, and where do they get more than $90 million for a 10-acre estate in Holmby Hills? Well, here’s what we know. Woodbridge is headquartered in Sherman Oaks (CA) and headed by a guy named Robert (Bob) Shapiro. Here’s the somewhat-odd company website. As far as we can tell they buy regular folks’ structured settlements and take investor’s money to buy up real estate and then fund commercial real estate loans backed by those high end properties as collateral.
Or something like that. Listen, y’all, we have never worked with Woodbridge, so this is nothing more than our cynical mind talking, but their website sounds like a bit fishy to your gurl. We have no proof of that, we’re just sayin’.
(But there is proof that Woodbridge has been sanctioned by regulators in both Massachusetts and Texas.)
Although the company may seem strange, fairly sketchy, and perhaps slightly suspicious, one thing is absolutely certain. There is absolutely no denying they have cash up the wazoo. Since early 2015, in fact, the company has imbibed well over $100 million worth of luxury real estate in the best areas of Los Angeles. It would take far too much time to show you photos of all the homes they currently own, so we’ve summarized their holdings below, along with the total price they paid.
Four teardowns in Trousdale Estates: $29,100,000
Three teardowns in the Bird Streets: $31,100,000
Three teardowns in Bel Air : $30,699,000
One teardown in Beverly Hills: $5,925,000
One large house just above the Sunset Strip: $13,500,000
One small house on a tiny lot in Holmby Hills: $4,500,000
The total amount Woodbridge paid for these 13 properties in and around the Platinum Triangle, all of which were acquired in the past two years? A downright dumbfounding $114,824,000. And we’re sure we’ve forgotten at least one or two other houses.
And it appears to Yolanda that Woodbridge has paid over market price for most (if not all) of these properties. Their modus operandi appears to be buying a house, hiring a well-known contemporary spec-mansion builder to design a set of plans and renderings, then flipping the unchanged property back onto the market (with the plans included) at a price that is often several million bucks more than they originally paid. Unsurprisingly, they have not been successful at flipping most of the residences. If indeed that is there true objective, of course.
But when you already have spent $114 million on scattered homes, what’s another $90 or $95 million for one of the most prime (and largest) estates in the Platinum Triangle, right?
Now, although the estate’s vibrantly colorful history has already been covered here, here, and here, let’s have a quick refresher.
Located at 141 S. Carolwood Drive (it’s the only house on Carolwood south of Sunset, actually), the current 12,000-square-foot mansion on the property was constructed in 1932 and designed by noted architect Robert Farquhar for Florence Quinn, the ex-wife of mall tycoon Arthur Letts Sr.
Interestingly enough, Ms. Quinn’s son, Arthur Letts Jr., had only recently built a large Gothic Tudor manor just around the corner. It’s now known as — you guessed it — the Playboy Mansion.
And if the design of Owlwood looks a wee bit familiar, it’s essentially a scaled-down version of the former “Georges Marciano Estate” in nearby Beverly Hills — also done up by Farquhar and now owned by Jerry Bruckheimer. We’ve briefly discussed that house a couple times on this blog.
But we digress yet again! Ms. Quinn eventually sold the house to Joseph Drown (founder of the Hotel Bel Air), who flipped it to movie mogul Joseph Schenck. While living on the estate, Mr. Schenck took up with a fledgling actress calling herself Marilyn Monroe, a gal nearly 50 years his junior. Ms. Monroe would spend at least a couple years dwelling in the estate’s guest house.
Then, in 1956, Schenck sold the house to oilman William Keck, who installed an indoor swimming pool and gold bathroom fixtures shaped like oil derricks. Naturally. Following Keck’s death, the estate was acquired in 1966 by Tony Curtis, who entertained the likes of Sonny Bono and Cher while in residence, the former of whom reportedly fell passionately in love with the house and instantly began dreaming of owning it.
Finally, in 1972, Cher got her chance. After a heated negotiation process with Curtis (during which she reportedly shouted “I want that fucking house!”) our gurl got her wish and the deal was sealed for $750,000.
The ill-fated couple moved on in. By 1975, they were divorced and their enormously popular television show was kaput. And Cher had since begun dating His Highness David Geffen (yes, kiddies, David Geffen once dated women). Supposedly Mr. Geffen had grand renovation plans for his girlfriend’s house which (perhaps thankfully) never came to fruition. You see, perennially itchy-footed Cher sold the house in 1976 for $950,000 to carpet mogul Ralph Miskin and his Emmy-winning Broadway producer wife Chase.
It was the Mishkins who christened the estate Owlwood (supposedly because the grounds were home to numerous of the fine-feathered fowls). But like the previous owners before them, the couple didn’t stay there long. After a total renovation, they flipped the property for $4,200,000 to a flamboyant and alleged arms dealer from Monaco named Ghazi Aita.
The 1978 sale was reportedly the most ever paid for a house in California up to that point. But too much is never enough and in 1982, Mr. Aita dropped another $4,000,000 for the house next door at 10600 Sunset Blvd, where he would occasionally entertain some of his lady friends (hookers), much to the annoyance of his longtime estate manager (who resided there full-time).
Mr. Aita would become the longest resident in Owlwood history to date. But finally, in 1999, he was ready to sell. He put the house ont he market for $58 million — perhaps in part because of the crazy prices the dotcom boom was engendering.
So the reports go, Michael Jackson was interested in the place and indeed came to have a look-see. But even MJ, a notorious spendthrift himself, thought that $58 million was way too much for the compound. The two-parcel property eventually sold in 2002 for about $33,000,000 to Roland Arnall, founder of subprime mortgage lender Ameriquest, which went belly-up in 2007. Just months later, Mr. Arnall died of cancer at the age of 68.
In addition to the two parcels at 10600 Sunset and 141 S. Carolwood, the Arnalls also purchased 10100 Sunset Boulevard, once home to Jayne Mansfield and known as “The Pink Palace” after the color she painted the structure. Mr. & Mrs. Arnall quickly demolished not only the house at 10600 Sunset but also the kitschy yet iconic Pink Palace at 10100, the latter allegedly without permits.
Today, the 10-acre estate sports only the large, historic main residence and a small separate guest/pool house. Where once stood the Mansfield home remains little more than a black-topped parking lot.
Like both The Manor and Fleur de Lys, the Owlwood Estate is being sold by a woman who got rich thanks to her fortunate marriage. Unlike Candy Spelling and Suzanne Saperstein, however, Dawn Arnall is not exactly what we’d call a socialite. She’s pretty damn lowkey for as much moolah as she has and reportedly spends most of her time not in LA but rather on her lavish, 650-acre Aspen retreat.
Although we don’t believe it’s ever been officially on the MLS, Owlwood has not-so-quietly been available as a pocket listing for the past few years, first at an astronomical ask of $150 million, then at a more reasonable but still sky-high $100,000,000.
Now that it is allegedly (nearly) sold, what will become of it? Given Woodbridge’s history, we can only imagine the land will be subdivided into four or five mini-estate-sized lots and flipped back onto the market with development plans. But that speculation is not really what this story is about, is it?
This is about our potential future champion. From the lowest places, kids, hope springs eternal. On this Sunday, let us pause and give thanks that we continue to dream real big real estate dreams. Let that banner yet wave and rise above, children. Bless you all.