Multi-billionaire Dan Friedkin covertly spends $18 million on a Brentwood “Belgian farmhouse”

For many years, the tony, sidewalk-free neighborhood of Brentwood on LA’s Westside has been most famous — or infamous, as is probably more apt — for being the area where OJ murdered Nicole and Ron. And while it may never completely step out from under that long, sinister shadow, a new local moniker has arisen. In the past few years, it has garnered a rep for being a punishingly pricey pocket where absurdly rich celebrities pour out tens of millions of $$$ on enormous mansions.

If you’ve followed this blog for some time (or other property gossip sites, for that matter) you’ve probably seen many of the following homes that we’ve linked to for reference. But just in case, here are some of those extravagant cribs owned by famous folks like headphones tycoon Dr. Dre, NBA star LeBron James, cosmetics mogul Jamie Kern Lima, South Park king Trey ParkerZillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, and actor/poker player Tobey Maguire.

But long before all those peeps began pouring their big money in, before all the other mansions, before OJ and the news cameras, the area was decidedly unpretentious and primarily known for its peaceful, bucolic atmosphere. Oh, and also for the many equestrian havens and ranches within its boundaries. It wasn’t so very long ago, really. Yolanda remembers like it was just yesterday (don’t laugh!).

Sadly, many of the lovely equestrian estates are going the way of Daewoo and the dodo. Every time we turn around, another one bites the dust. As the thirst for land becomes ever more insatiable, the ranches are rudely destroyed to make way for East Coast-style borefests like this one.

Or so it would seem. And we don’t mean to be rude. There’s nothing stylistically wrong with houses like that, really. It’s only Yolanda’s useless and delicate real estate sensibilities. We find those sorts of homes rather stale and stodgy. But people love ’em. Folks can’t get enough. The numbers (prices!) don’t lie.

And yet, owners of certain ranch holdouts remain without selling out. They, we think, are the wise ones. Perhaps the tide might finally be ready to turn.

Let’s set the scene.

Sullivan Canyon has long been the most rustic and countrified corner of Brentwood, with the densest horse population for miles around. Easily. It’s here, after all, where Steven Spielberg bought/built his horse-lovin’ wife Kate Capshaw a multi-acre compound made up of stables and a professional riding ring.

Anyway, a 1950 Sullivan Canyon ranch at 1550 Old Oak Road was sold for $3,500,000 back in late 2012. The 2,330-square-foot house was well-maintained and came with a pool and detached stables on the .69-acre lot. Not surprisingly, however, it was marketed as an excellent teardown opportunity.

The buyers then were a lady named Raphaelle Wunderman Cassens — the daughter of a wealthy Swiss watch manufacturer named Severin Wunderman — and her husband Phil Cassens.

You may have expected Mr. & Mrs. Cassis to replace the ranch with some sort of “Cape Cod” faux nonsense mansion. We’re sure they could’ve easily built a two-story Nantucket-style porker for a couple million and sold the finished product in the $10 to $12 million range. But nope. Like a butterfly emerging from yonder prickly caterpillar, something gorgeously nonsensical this way came.

See, Mr. & Mrs. Cassens did raze the existing house. But what they built in its place was a scaled-back 5,476-square-foot glassy ranch sprawler with just 4 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. The couple also rebuilt/expanded the stables. Kept the riding ring. Grew an organic vegetable garden. And refused to add a sports court, movie theater, or even a pool (!!!). The mini-estate’s style is “modern Belgian farmhouse”. Well, alrighty then. We’ll take their word for it.

But anywho — what were these looney tunes thinking?!

Belgian in Brentwood?

Guess what? Take an ice-cold shower, because those silly folks just sold their ranch for $18,300,000. More than five times what they originally paid.

Apparently at least one millionaire — or billionaire, in this case — does not feel the need to live in a hulking mansion in LA.

Of course we have no way of knowing how much money Mr. & Mrs. Cassens sunk into construction and there are those pesky taxes and fees to consider, but Yolanda would not be the least bit surprised if the astute (or lucky) couple walked away with $10 million in pure profit. Take a minute to digest that.

You may laugh, you may cry at the absurdity of it all. But goodness gracious, kiddies. After peeking at the pictures, we now see why this house commanded such an exuberant pricetag. This place is lovely. We’d live here in a heartbeat. We’re gonna show you the pics in just a second, of course, but the new estate is best viewed through YouTube. Wanna watch it? Better move quickly, because Yolanda suspects the video will soon be yanked off the interwebs.

The spendy buyer’s identity is carefully concealed behind something called “Old Oak Real Properties LLC”, but Yolanda just happens to know that the happy new owners are a Texas-based couple named Dan & Debra Friedkin.

Dan & Debra Friedkin

Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin and their four children hail from Houston, y’all. Well, actually, Houston is simply their “main” residence. They’ve got homes all over the place, as we will discuss a bit later.

Our Mr. Friedkin — his full name is Thomas Daniel “Dan” Friedkin — has a wide variety of interests that include wildlife conservation and aviation. More important to this tale, however, is that he has a net worth of $3.9 billion (per Forbes).

You may be shocked to know that most — if not all — of that money comes from peddling Toyotas. Yes, kiddies, Mr. Friedkin is a car salesman. His Gulf States Toyota has the unfathomably lucrative exclusive rights to sell Toyotas in the Midwest and Deep South states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. GST’s sales account for 13% of all Toyota sales nationwide, so it should come as no surprise that Mr. Friedkin is a billionaire several times over. The company was founded by Mr. Friedkin’s dad, octogenarian Thomas Hoyt “Tom” Friedkin, way back in 1968.

Mr. Friedkin also recently formed a start-up Hollywood entertainment studio, so perhaps that’s why he would be interested in an $18.3 million LA ranch.

As for Mrs. Friedkin, she is a noted supporter of archaeological explorations and even has her name slapped on a notable archaeological site in Texas. Apparently, this site has been the epicenter of a remarkable artifact find that provides direct evidence of human life existing in the Americas more than 15,000 years ago. That’s really quite a bit deal!

You know you’re rich when you have your own archaeological site. Just sayin’.

Onto the $18.3 million house. The 2014-built property was built from the amended plans of Napa-based architect Howard Backen. The abode was never officially on the MLS, so we’re not even sure what the asking price was, but we do know that the residence was marketed as offering 7,800-square-feet of living space, a big discrepancy from the 5,476-square-feet stated in public records. Perhaps the sizable stable has something to do with that.

Most folks driving by this place would never even give it a second glance. The one-story house isn’t visible from the road out front — the only things that can be seen are a redwood gate, hedges and mature trees. A decomposed granite driveway lends another informal note to the already casual experience. A short stone pathway leads to the deceptively-modest steel-and-glass front door.

The entry corridorleads directly to a spacious living/dining room with artfully mismatched furniture. Floor-to-ceiling steel-and-glass slider doors connect to an enormous outdoor loggia — perfect for entertaining.

One of Yolanda’s favorite rooms is the outdoor-indoor kitchen. We absolutely love the olive green cabinets, the stacked stone, and the vaulted reclaimed-wood ceiling. There’s even a quaint pizza oven. But high-end appliances themselves (Wolf) cost more than a new Toyota, probably.

Bless us! Back inside, there’s a real library with real bookshelves and real books. Yolanda approves of the table with the trendy mismatched chairs. The combo wine/cigar room boasts two glass walk-in wine closets and access tot he outdoors. Perfect for pouring a glass and then meandering about the yard. Reflecting on y’all’s money, amen?

A few details in this casa are a bit too cutesy for Yolanda — take the enormous Levi’s mural — but overall, we give this house two big thumbs up.

The master suite (top five pictures) has a four-poster bed with an exploding star chandelier and richly-grained hardwood flooring. The bathroom appears to have been hewed from a single slab of marble and features a shower “stall” with rainfall showerhead.

Lower pics are of one of the three secondary bedrooms. The wall of small pictures is certainly dramatic — and impressively hung — but we think Consuela must hate her employers’ guts for making her dust all that.

Ho hum, another seashell bed.

Belgian farmhouse makes Yolanda think of a place where Hercule Poirot might want to live. While we always imagined him in somewhere more formal, we think he would appreciate the neatly-symmetrical outdoor fireplace design.

Also in the house (not pictured) is a full-sized attic.

The two-stall barn holds a tack room, bathroom, grooming stall and wash rack with hot and cold water and laundry area. A blue brick laundry area.

Perhaps the one major downside to this property, as pointed out by Our Mama, is the fact that it backs right up to busy-busy Sunset Boulevard. Living right on the iconic street is certainly a fun thing to flaunt to one’s out-of-town friends, but the noise and pollution is less fun to folks actually living on the street. At least this section of the road isn’t too overwhelmingly congested — yet.

According to the online marketing materials, “the garden boasts nine raised Corten steel fruit and vegetable beds comprised of everything from pumpkins to pomegranates.” Yum!

Many of Mr. Friedkin’s new neighbors are abnormally rich and/or famous. We’ve already mentioned Steven Spielberg, of course, but a few of the other notable folks within sugar-borrowing distance include Oscar-nominated actress Anne Archer, Oscar-winning actress Diane Keaton (who just completed construction on a big brick farmhouse of her own), and Russian video game heiress Rita Kogan (who with her Oscar-winning cinematographer hubby Richard Edlund owns not one, not two, but three Sullivan Canyon properties on the same little cul-de-sac.

A thorough stroll through property records reveals that this Brentwood lodge is not the only multi-million dollar house in LA owned by Mr. Friedkin and his wife. Records reveal that back in 2014, they used another LLC to quietly pay $8,400,000 for an oceanfront mock-Med house on Malibu’s La Costa Beach.

Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin’s oceanfront Malibu home

The 3,159-square-foot Pacific Coast Highway house has a bit of a celebrity history. Back in 2009, it was purchased for $5,845,000 by producer Ryan Kavanaugh, who flipped it one year later for $9,000,000 to producer Todd Phillips. Poor Mr. Phillips, bless his real estate heart, took a $600k+ loss on the property when he tossed the keys over the the Friedkins.

But wait, there’s more.

Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin’s ocean view Santa Monica home

Just one month after acquiring their Malibu home, Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin plunked down $4,125,000 for a 2,791-square-foot two-story Santa Monica house on a corner lot fronting prime Ocean Avenue. The house has clear whitewater views from nearly every room.

We can’t fathom why Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin would need a house in Brentwood, a house in Malibu, and a house in Santa Monica, all of which are in close proximity to one another. But have a look at their extended property portfolio. The Friedkin clan clearly isn’t prone to real estate moderation.

Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin’s main residence, Houston (TX)

Yes, don’t let their relatively modest (if outrageously expensive) Brentwood ranch fool you. Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin are actually real estate size queens, at least when they’re at home in Houston, Texas. Their main residence appears to be an grand mega-mansion with 19,536-square-feet of living space. The ivy-covered red brick faux-Tudor — which looks old but was actually built in 2002 — backs up to the hoity-toity River Oaks Country Club and just happens to be right down the street from an 11,763-square-foot mansion that’s owned by Mr. Friedkin’s parents, Tom & Susan Friedkin.

In addition to the Houston mansions and the three houses in LA, it appears they own not one but two lavish equestrian-themed estates down in Rancho Santa Fe, California.

The old Bing Crosby estate (we think?) in Rancho Santa Fe, now owned by the Friedkins

Tom & Susan Friedkin paid about $6,000,000 for this 22-acre spread back in 1998. It’s reportedly Bing Crosby’s former “Osuna Ranch”. After a brief spate of online research, however, Yolanda isn’t entirely certain if Mr. Crosby ever owned this particular property. Can anyone help your gurl out? Do we have any Rancho Santa Fe locals reading this hot mess? Be a dear and sort out our ignorant self. Pretty please?

The Friedkins’ epic compound in Rancho Santa Fe

Just two years after acquiring their first Rancho Santa Fe estate, the baller-tastic Friedkins slammed down $22,000,000 (in cash) for a world-class complex with a 13,000-square-foot mansion, pool/spa, tennis court, riding ring, pastures and acres of orchards.

Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin’s Mwiba Lodge in Tanzania (Africa)

Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin have been involved in East African conservation efforts for many years, so it is really no surprise that they have a stupendous compound over in Tanzania. The vision for Mwiba Lodge, as it is known, was conceived by Debra Friedkin. The lodge contains just 8 guest suites and all paying guests are ferried to the remote lodge via an airplane owned by Mr. Friedkin, natch. Coolest of all is a slate infinity-edged pool from which you can observe zebra and elephants drinking water from the natural spring directly below. If you’ve got money and a hankering to visit East Africa, Yolanda would advise you to seriously consider Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin’s hospitality. (Book early!)

More impressive, however, is that the Friedkins have long leased six million acres of Tanzania land from the government for conservation and protection purposes. We can’t even fathom the amount of resources it must take to manage millions of acres of land and shelter the wildlife from poachers (and such). But if anyone can do it, it would probably be the Friedkins.

The elder Mr. & Mrs. Friedkin also lay claim to an 8,264-square-foot luxury cabin in Frazee, Minnesota, on the shore of the Detroit Lakes. According to a local rag, they’ve also got a multi-million dollar condo in high-nosed Aspen (CO). And let us never forget their $50 million, 30,000-acre “Sleeping Indian Ranch” in Ridgway, Colorado.

The Friedkin family’s $50 million “Sleeping Indian Ranch” in Colorado

Sleeping Indian Ranch has been described as “perhaps the largest log Post and Beam structure ever built”. But even if it ain’t, the Friedkins can take comfort in the fact that it is definitely the largest log Post and Beam architectural structure ever to win the coveted “Honor Award” from the American Institute of Architects, which it did in 2002. The structure was designed by the talented Pasadena, California-based architect Patrick M. Sullivan (may he RIP).

The award-winning Sleeping Indian Ranch/Lodge

Yolanda also uncovered convincing yet unconfirmed evidence that Dan Friedkin may own luxury real estate in many other places like Madison County, Montana, Nashville, Tennessee, and even Cabo San Lucas (Mexico). But sorry, y’all. Yolanda’s all real estate-ed out for the day. A voracious collector like Mr. Friedkin may require a “Part II” story at some point, so stay tuned.

And so whaddya think about what we’ve seen in Brentwood today? Are ranches back in vogue? Or is this just a sky-high anomaly, courtesy of an eccentric billionaire?

Listing agents (Brentwood): Brian Courville & JB Fung, John Aaroe Group
Listing agent (Malibu): Kurt Rappaport, Westside Estate Agency
Listing agent (Santa Monica): David Solomon, The Agency
Dan Friedkin’s agent: Justin Paul Huchel, Hilton & Hyland 

4 Comment

  1. Boo! Video link is already dead.

  2. NoSchumerEver says: Reply

    Overpriced by double but thank god there is no lawn. I keep seeing lawns in pictures of LA houses and mostly they look awful. Apparently it doesn’t work that well out there regardless of how much water is being throwing on it, but nonetheless people are determined. . .

  3. Rabbi Hedda LaCasa says: Reply

    I’m unfamiliar with Brentwood, except with the memory of a firm request to leave the former Simpson estate gates shortly after the related tragedy. (Attn. Security staff, the Rabbi was praying and not gawking. And following your rude dismissal, she peeped the former homes of Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe.)

    The new Friedkin home is refreshingly unpretentious and delightfully playful as presently furnished. I’m also unfamiliar with the family; however, they appear to have initiated a gezunte amount of tikkun olam, a healthy commitment to repair the world through their generous philanthropy.

  4. Karen gidwitz says: Reply

    I love the organic garden and the execution of it. Any idea who did it? Karen

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