Normally Yolanda doesn’t pay much attention to the noise and other assorted foolishness that trills its way into our ears. We generally prefer facts backed up by research and property records. Today, however, we’ve gotta make an exception. The everyday rumors we hear are ridiculous and ridiculously false, but this one is so outlandish we think it might actually be true. Make sense?
Now try to keep up, and keep in mind this is pure gossip at this point, so take that for what it is and stick it in your juice box.
A couple little (anonymous) birdies have chirped that there is a big, big deal going down in the blissful (yet often traffic-choked) seaside locale of Malibu, CA. That in of itself is not entirely unexpected, of course. Every year there seem to be at least a couple big transactions ($30+ million) that go down in the ‘Bu. What really piqued Yolanda’s interest, however, is that the house at the center of the rumors is quite likely the most impressive — and visible — mega-mansion in the city, and certainly one of the most notorious. We’ve written about it at least twice before, actually.
You see, kiddies, the prominently-positioned property has a (somewhat) long and sordid history of broken hearts and shattered real estate dreams.
The 15,000-square-foot Mediterranean- or Spanish hacienda-style sprawler was built in the early 1990s by a real estate developer named William O’Connor and his mysteriously wealthy wife Karen. Custom designed by the late architect William Pauli, the horseshoe-shaped structure sits at the end of an epically-long driveway that meanders down most of the 15+ acre lot. The home boasts stunning ocean views, an infinity pool, a tennis court, a guard house, several other ancillary outbuildings, and even two koi ponds that are so big they might as well be mini-lakes.
Our Mr. O’Connor — an avid amateur golfer — even installed a five-hole course on the ocean view estate’s grounds. But alas, as it is wont to do, the harsh fall quickly came. Within a couple years of the construction being complete, Mr. & Mrs. O’Connor were already involved in an extremely messy divorce that eventually left Mrs. O’Connor a millionaire many tens of times over and Mr. O’Connor comparatively penniless. Not to be blunt, but he’s also dead now. Hope those few years of blissful golf games were worth it! Cheaper to keep her, Mr. O’Connor.
Anyway, the rich Mrs. O’Connor quickly changed her name to Karen Rabe and continued living in the oversized house until sometime around 2006. It was that summer, you see, when she sold the property in a top-secret off-market deal for $30,000,000 to African playboy Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president/dictator of the tiny but oil-rich African country of Equatorial Guinea.
As an aside, Ms. Rabe (formerly Mrs. O’Connor) all but vanished off the face of the earth after selling the property. Or so it seemed! It took Yolanda months, but we eventually tracked her down to Newport Coast (CA), down behind the dreaded Orange Curtain. It is down there where Yolanda is quite certain she now resides — in a luxurious $9 million mansion in a guard-gated community. In case anyone was wondering, Ms. Rabe’s name does not actually appear in property records — the house is owned through a blind trust. Make of the trust what you will, but we know it’s Ms. Rabe so that is that.
Just last year — back in April 2016 — Ms. Rabe caused a big ol’ stink down in Newport Coast’s high-falutin’ society pages when she filed a gigantic lawsuit against renowned art dealer Guy Wildenstein. Why? Apparently Ms. Rabe was none too pleased when she found out that her $875,000 Alfred Sisley painting was actually not a Sisley but rather a forgery probably not worth $875.00.
The horror, y’all! Can you imagine anything worse than waking up one morning to find that your beloved $875,000 painting isn’t who you believed he was at all?! Our stars! Have mercy.
But we digress. Our Ms. Rabe sold her big ass Malibu house to our shady Mr. Obiang in 2006. Although initially kept on the DL, it wasn’t long before federal authorities caught wind of the purchase and zeroed in on Mr. Obiang’s outlandish spending.
Teddy Jr., as we’ll call him, is known for calling himself as a prince and indulging his nearly-insatiable taste for luxury with exotic sports cars, private jets, and Michael Jackson memorabilia.
In October 2014, to exactly no one’s surprise, the US Justice Department seized the home in a blaze of glory and publicity. We’re not sure when Mr. Obiang actually moved out, but it was most assuredly long before that date. From there, the property fell into a sad state of abandonment and neglect. Take a look at these photos to see how the ol’ gurl’s landscaping shriveled up and died.
Last year, as Yolanda first revealed, the house was sold in an off-market deal for $33,500,000 to Mexican investor Mauricio Oberfeld. The low-profile but astoundingly rich Mr. Oberfeld kept his plans for the property quiet until just about a month ago, when the folks over at The Real Deal spilled the proverbial jelly beans on his full-scale renovation/restoration of the epic but long-abandoned property.
Naturally, Yolanda was insatiably curious to see the results of Mr. Oberfeld’s efforts. Although the house was built 25 years ago and has changed hands several times, as of now it has never yet been offered for sale on the open market. Many features of the property — including the interior, for starters — remain unknown, even to Yolanda.
But now here’s where things get a mite interesting, y’all. We’ve heard from a couple little anonymous birdies that the house is already in escrow with a high society Hong Kong couple named for the shockingly high amount of $75,000,000.
The couple in question are art collectors-slash-philanthropists named Eugene Chuang and Karen Lo. And while they may not be household names, there is little doubt that Mr. Chuang and Ms. Lo are enormously wealthy. Yes — billionaire baller-style wealthy, in fact.
Yolanda’s research shows that Ms. Lo happens to be the sister of a lady named Sharon Lo, who is married to a billionaire fellow named Lawrence Ho. Our Mr. Ho happens to be the dude who just paid a whopping $65,000,000 for an apartment in New York City’s much-ballyhooed 432 Park Avenue development.
Karen Lo and Mr. Chuang are quite obviously loaded to the max themselves. Back in September 2009 — near the height of the global economic recession — Ms. Lo paid $450 million Hong Kong dollars (nearly $58 million USD at today’s currency exchange rates) for a 39% stake in Cordoba Homes Limited, which owns residential and commercial Hong Kong properties.
But we digress again. If that $75 million number seems obscenely high — well, it is. Ain’t no way around that one. On the other hand, however, it doesn’t seem so crazy if we’re just comparing it to other massive Malibu residential real estate transactions. A similarly-scaled but arguably less well-located blufftop property in the fairly remote Encinal Bluffs neighborhood of Malibu sold to billionaire Jim Jannard in early 2013 for a whopping $74,500,000. That remains the highest price ever paid for a Malibu home.
If you ask us, kiddies, the Sweetwater crib is actually more impressive than Mr. Jannard’s spread, despite the fact that it’s on the “wrong side” of PCH. But that’s just our worthless opinion.
And then there’s billionaire widow Laurene Powell Jobs, who so far has spent $60,500,000 on a totally unfinished 3-acre compound in the Paradise Cove area of Malibu. And what about Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber, who threw down a silly $50,500,000 for a development-ready property just two doors away from Jim Jannard’s compound? They’ve already split the property up and have the larger parcel back up for sale at a ridiculously optimistic $60 million!
So these sorts of ludicrous monetary sums are not exactly unheard of in Malibu, which is why this rumored sale price is not entirely surprising to Yolanda. But before y’all go around repeating this nonsense like it’s true-blue fact, a word of caution.
We know Malibu, kiddies. Malibu — beautiful as it may be — is a very Americanized and very white neighborhood. Ain’t nothing necessarily wrong with that, it’s just the way it be. You won’t find the diversity out here that you would in Beverly Hills or Bel Air or even whitewashed Brentwood. We aren’t being xenophobic, truly. That’s just the way the ‘hood out there is. Hence why we can’t help but be a leetle bit skeptical when we hear that foreigners like Mr. Chuang and Ms. Lo might be buying this.
Not because they’re brand-new to purchasing high-end Los Angeles real estate. They aren’t.
Back in spring 2013, Ms. Lo went and threw down more than 8 million bucks for two adjacent high-floor units in LA’s iconic Sierra Towers building. The seller of both units, y’all may be interested to know, was none other than Her
Rumors at the time strongly hinted at the fact that Ms. Lo planned to combine both units into one giant apartment in what is arguably the best — or at least most star-studded — apartment building in all of Los Angeles. Other Sierra Towers residents include Sandra Bullock, Courteney Cox, Joan Collins, and Ozzy & Sharon Osbourne.
Ms. Lo’s plans must have changed, however. Less than two years after paying $8,175,000 for both of Cher’s Sierra Towers apartments — $5,250,000 for the duplex unit and $2,925,000 for the single-floor one — she flipped the smaller apartment for $3,425,000 to real estate uber-agent Kurt Rappaport. A scant two months later, Mr. Rappaport flipped the apartment (again) for $3,500,000 to goth-lookin’ local jewelry designer Loree Rodkin. But we digress. Our Ms. Lo continues to own the larger Sierra Towers unit, according to property records. That apartment, in case y’all are curious, is (was?) the Towers‘ only duplex.
But still we return to first base. Does Ms. Lo have the money to afford a $75 million mansion? She does, duh! But does she really wanna live in a house where a nasty divorce went down, where the son of a (alleged!) cannibal spent his blood money, in a tomb to forgotten wealth that has sat abandoned for years? Pardon us, but isn’t that really awful feng shui?
Let’s wait and see.