Donald Abbey quietly gets the boot from Bradbury Estates

It’s all over. 2016 had one final casualty to inflict. (Allegedly) cash-strapped real estate tycoon Donald Abbey has officially checked out of The Bradbury Estate, easily one of the largest and most extravagant homes in all of Los Angeles County. Let us rest, reflect, and say goodbye forever.

Yolanda knew the end was nigh, of course. Not to beep our own horn, but we discussed the Notice of Default filed against Mr. Abbey’s personal version of Hearst Castle — and his other assorted financial troubles — almost a year ago. But we anticipated him to go out in a blaze of blood and bullets, whether it be through a protracted foreclosure, public auction, or a last minute Hail Mary! sale. Our Mr. Abbey is quite a character, after all.

In the end, however, the demise of Mr. Abbey’s much-publicized residency in the prestigious Bradbury Estates neighborhood came to a close much more quietly than Yolanda ever anticipated. We didn’t even know it had happened until a wee Bradbury Estates birdie who we’ll call Little Bo Peep chirped to Yolanda that Mr. Abbey is gone, gone, gone forever from the hallowed streets of 91008.

Sure enough, and much to Yolanda’s surprise, a quick check of property records confirms that Mr. Abbey is — as of December 13, 2016 — no longer the owner of The Bradbury Estate.

Essentially what this grant deed means, kiddies, is that Mr. Abbey relinquished ownership of his epicly-scaled compound over to his mortgage lender (Second Step Asset Management is a Bank of America subsidiary) in exchange for the entirety of his mortgage debt being forgiven. Probably a wise choice, we think, as opposed to continuing with the grim foreclosure process.

More interesting, however, is the deed makes clear that the total dollar amount owed on the property by Mr. Abbey — an unbelievable $32,330,351.26 (!!!) as of June 2016 — is equal to or greater than the total value of the house and the 8-acre land on which it rests. That’s significant! You see, the property has been on the market for a five full years — initially at an asking price of $78,800,000 that eventually tumbled to $48,800,000 and has now inexplicably ballooned back up to $78,000,000. It is now abundantly obvious, however, that the ask is fantastically and outrageously optimistic.

Before we digress any further, however, let’s color in the circles and provide some context to those of y’all who might not be familiar with this admittedly somewhat bizarre tale.

Mr. Abbey

Our Mr. Abbey attended college at Penn State back in the 1960s. He was a talented running back on the football team, where he played under a once-great yet now-disgraced (and deceased) coach named Joe Paterno. Upon graduation, Mr. Abbey was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys but chose to become a Navy SEAL rather than pursue a professional football career.

By mid-1980s, Mr. Abbey had relocated to Orange County, California and was working in commerical real estate. In 1990, he founded The Abbey Company, a commercial real estate firm based in Long Beach (CA) that is privately owned and managed by Mr. Abbey.

Mr. Abbey quickly amassed substantial wealth through his real estate investments. In 1991, records show he paid $2,000,000 for an 8-acre property in a hilltop corner of the Bradbury Estates neighborhood that would become the future location of his palace.

Bradbury Estates

Bradbury Estates is a guard-gated community in the tiny city of Bradbury, CA. For those who may never have heard of it — and there are still many even among LA residents — Bradbury is located in the oft-overlooked San Gabriel Valley, which sits just northeast of LA. Bradbury is about 10 minutes’ drive from Pasadena, 30 minutes from Downtown LA, and within an hour from Santa Monica/Malibu. (All of those time estimations are with only light traffic, of course.)

Yolanda has been to Bradbury Estates, so we know of what we speak when we tell y’all that it is a very beautiful, bucolic, prosperous, horse-friendly community filled with people who are — generally speaking — much nicer and more friendly than their counterparts in Beverly Hills and on LA’s Westside. With only about 80 homes (or so), we think of the Estates as a much smaller and prettier version of Hidden Hills.

But we digress. There is absolutely no question that Mr. Abbey was, at one time, one of the wealthiest residents of Bradbury Estates. So what happened?

We don’t know for certain, however, but based on everything we’ve heard and read, it appears that Mr. Abbey is quite the voracious spender. His wild expenditures, it seems, outstripped even his deep well of financial resources.

Perhaps his philanthropy was partly to blame. Mr. Abbey was generous to a fault. He once donated a shocking $8,500,000 to cover renovations for his old Penn State fraternity building. Crazy, right? $8.5 million for frat house renovations?

And then, of course, there were the Bradbury and Montana homes.

By his own admission, Mr. Abbey spent twelve years and an unimaginable amount of moolah building his Bradbury house. The acres of bluestone for the driveway were cut and quarried in Vietnam. The French limestone exterior blocks were quarried in France (duh!) and cut in Portugal. A six-foot marble fireplace in the living room was rebuilt three times to suit Mr. Abbey’s taste. The one million gallon trout pond is climate-controlled year-round. The 700,000-gallon pool is infinity-edged and cross-shaped. No question, it is one of the largest private man-made bodies of water we’ve ever laid eyes on.

Add the 30,000-square-foot main house plus the accessory structures (10-car garage & guest house, pool house) and you get a combined 47,000+ square foot compound overlooking the LA basin.

As soon as the house was complete, in early 2012, Mr. Abbey put the estate up for sale to a blaze of publicity with an asking price of $78,800,000. The rest of the story is fairly non-eventful — by the end of 2015, Mr. Abbey was already more than $500,000 behind on the payments for a $31 million construction loan he obtained from Bank of America.

That same year, Mr. Abbey took part in a video where he provided a tour of the property:

Now is it just us, or does the whole thing feel somewhat empty? No question, it’s packed to the gills with quality materials, but they all collude to make the place look overwhelmingly soulless and impersonal, like one of those isolated luxury rehab centers. Perhaps the lack of landscaping is a factor in that feeling, perhaps not. Even with better landscaping, the home remains a white elephant.

But wait, there’s more. Mr. Abbey’s massive mansion in Bradbury was not his only castle. He concurrently constructed another epic estate on Shelter Island on Flathead Lake, way out in Montana. Mr. Abbey took years and employed more than 250 workers to build his island behemoth.

Shelter Island on Montana’s Flathead Lake: no longer owned by Mr. Abbey

Poor Mr. Abbey no longer owns his Montana home, either. Last year, he relinquished title of the property to Second Step, the same Bank of America subsidiary that also now owns his Bradbury Estates home. The house is now listed for $39 million, exactly half of its original $78 million asking price (yes, Mr. Abbey loves $78 million asking prices).

But perhaps he’s glad to be rid of it. The property proved to be quite the litigation headache for Mr. Abbey. He sued his project contractor, he sued several subcontractors, he sued Montana over property taxes. At one point, Mr. Abbey was even suing himself.

The nagging question continues to haunt us: why would Mr. Abbey take on massive debt to build these enormous monuments to his own success? If he intended to flip them, why would he install so many custom features tailored to his own whims, and why would he build the homes in unsexy locales? If they were for his personal use, how could a guy who earned his fortune in real estate not foresee the astronomical ownership costs associated with these properties?

And why such enormous homes for a single guy? Mr. Abbey has never been married, taken a domestic partner, or had children, at least to Yolanda’s knowledge. Building two compounds, each of which is the approximate size of a standard aircraft carrier — why?!

It’s all very bizarre.

An uncertain future…

So what will happen to the Bradbury Estate now? We can’t imagine that BoA is eager to maintain a house of this magnitude for an extended period of time. While the crib is still saddled with a $78 million pricetag, we believe it will eventually transfer for no more than $25 million. Just a guess. Either that or it’ll become a mausoleum to Mr. Abbey’s bygone dreams. Say, take a look at that cross-shaped pool. Has anyone asked Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar if they fancy a new West Coast parsonage?

The saga ain’t over. Not by far. We’ve got lots more to write. But Mr. Abbey’s chapter has officially ended.

And while we don’t know where he has moved, we believe Mr. Abbey is still residing somewhere in Southern California — most likely in a place far less decadent than The Bradbury Estate. Sad, no?

Here’s the thing, though. Life is already so short as it is. From the YouTube video we posted, it seems Mr. Abbey’s lifelong dream was to live a hedonistic lifestyle that few can even imagine.

And how many folks can truly say they lived their dreams? Mr. Abbey lived his, at least for a few short years. And he lived in the moment –seemingly without regard for rational, monetary concerns.  There’s something about that. It’s sorta — dare we say — admirable? Fearless? Poetic?

As ol’ Willy once stated: “Every Morn and every Night; Some are Born to sweet delight. Some are Born to sweet delight; Some are Born to Endless Night…”

Listing agent (Bradbury Estates): Bob Hurwitz, Hurwitz James Co.
Listing agent (Montana)Casey Yarger, Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty

11 Replies to “Donald Abbey quietly gets the boot from Bradbury Estates”

  1. Rabbi Hedda LaCasa says: Reply

    Thank you for another rigorous property review, followed by pensive questions and poignant musical accompaniment. Concerning the latter, I might have ensued with Don’t Leave Me This Way, sung by incomparable Thelma Houston, and concluded with unrivaled Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.

    Let’s Make Disco Great Again!

    1. Rabbi, perhaps you should apply to become Yolanda’s personal DJ. Love her but her musical gauge seems stuck in the 60s and 90s.

      1. Rabbi Hedda LaCasa says: Reply

        Thanks, Porky; however, I’m musically stuck in the Disco 70s!
        Hedda

  2. Here he is talking about his HUUUUUGE Montana house. The one he no longer owns:

  3. After listening to this Abbey guy talk, I can think of a more appropriate “poetic” quote….Pride comes before a fall!

  4. The Bradbury home was featured on a TV show, maybe Million Dollar Rooms? Anyway, I thought it looked to empty then, and i do now too. But that ceiling in the living room!!!

    1. I spoke too soon. I see it was also featured on Mega Mansions. The ceiling picture I refer to is #9 in the grid.

  5. Michael Jackson created Neveland for a the same reasons Donald George Abbey created Bradbury. It’s not rocket science to connect the dots. He is a sick man.

  6. Sad really you can have all the money in the world and have nothing.

  7. I’ve been following this property since they announced its sale in 2012. The Altman Brothers are the agents for it now and their site has the 3D walkthrough. It was definitely built too much to Mr. Abbey’s taste. I’d imagine the future owner would spend a couple million redoing a lot of the interior.

  8. Yolanda,
    Thank you for the update about the “Saga of Donald Abbey”. I am an appraiser & was involved in two appraisals of this signature property when it was in the early stages of construction. I had lost track of what was going on.

    I was able to tour it when it was completed and it has stupendous amenities but it is, in appraiser speak, is a massive over-improvement for where it is located. I hope that they can get this sold.

Leave a Reply