Well, fiddlesticks. Kids, the real estate market is so hot right now that Yolanda is having real, real trouble deciding what to write about. We’ve got pages of properties stinking up our desk! But that’s a good problem to have, and we aren’t complaining. Only a little bit, maybe. Today we’re going with a tale about two young(ish) folks with a lot of mysterious money.
Who doesn’t love Pacific Palisades? The sunshine, the trees, the ocean breezes, the family-friendly nature, the Prius drivers everywhere (okay, Yolanda could live without that part, but we digress).
Well, there’s at least one group of folks who don’t love it: potential homebuyers who don’t have a net worth of ten figures of more. Take a look at this pleasant new house on a super-prime street in the swanky Riviera section of the Palisades. With an entire children’s wing that features a playroom, it’s perfect for a young family. But it just sold for $15,800,000! That’s almost 16 million smackeroos! Make no mistake, that’s a whole ton of money. How many young families do you know that can afford a mortgage on a house like that? Very few, we’d wager.
But the beauty (or ugliness, if you prefer) of our real estate market (and other markets in general) is that for every 100 folks who can’t afford a house, there are at least a couple who can. And in this case, there is a young family who can and did afford it.
The new owners’ identities are very carefully cloaked behind an anonymously-named LLC that leads down a dead-end road, but Yolanda just happens to know that their names are Anton and Carole Lessine. Our Mr. & Mrs. Lessine are in their early-to-mid-30s and have two young daughters. Neither of the Lessines work what y’all might term regular jobs — they’re much too wealthy for that — but Mr. Lessine did co-found a film production company and has produced several Hollywood blockbusters featuring big-name stars like Brad Pitt and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lessine is a polo player and equestrian who owns several beautiful horses of her own.
Mr. Lessine was born and raised in Moscow, Russia; Mrs. Lessine originally hails from Switzerland.
So where does all the money come from? Well, kiddies, Mr. Lessine happens to be the only son of the late Mikhail Lesin. If that name sounds vaguely familiar, you may recall that Mr. Lesin shot to worldwide fame (or infamy) posthumously, back in November 2015. It was then, you see, when he rather bizarrely wound up dead in a Washington, D.C. hotel room.
Mr. Lesin, you see, was — at one time — a very prominent figure in the Russian government. For many years he was reportedly BFFs with Putin himself and, in fact, Mr. Lesin served for many years as Putin’s “chief media enforcer“. Who knows what that really means, but it certainly sounds ominous to Yolanda.
Sometime in 2009, it seems, Mr. Lesin and his family rather abruptly departed Russia and turned up here in Los Angeles, where they quickly began throwing down eyebrow-raising sums of money on hulking mansions. Keep in mind this was also during the worldwide economic recession, y’all. We’ll get to those other houses in a moment.
For several years, the Lesin family’s home purchases went mostly unnoticed, as the homes were registered to mysterious LLCs and corporations and the like. In fact, it was not until 2014, after a former nanny filed a lawsuit against Anton and Carole Lessine that the shit really started to hit the proverbial fan. The lawsuit, you see, indirectly exposed the fact that the Lesin family held title to roughly $30 million in luxury LA real estate. Folks took notice and even Mississippi senator Roger Wicker called for a Senate investigation into the Lesin clan and their source of wealth.
The issue at hand seemed to be how Mr. Lesin — a Russian government employee for many years — could amass the substantial funds required to live such a lavish SoCal lifestyle. Nobody could figure it out, but Yolanda would suspect that it pays well to be in Putin’s good graces. Get what we’re saying, y’all? Perhaps our current President could elaborate on that (yes, Yolanda went there!).
And it wasn’t just the houses that attracted suspicion. Financing those Hollywood blockbusters — Fury, Sabotage, Rock the Kasbah among them — required an enormous amount of capital. Where had those tens of millions of bucks come from? All fingers, it seems, pointed back to Mr. Lesin.
We are not sure about what (if anything) ever happened to the Senate probe. But for some odd reason, Mr. Lesin traveled alone to Washington, D.C. in fall 2015. The public may never know who he went to see — or why — and the details of what happened on the fateful night of November 5th are still unclear. But Mr. Lesin was found dead in his hotel room the following morning.
Then came the publicity. Almost everyone suspected that Mr. Lesin might have been knocked off by agents from his home country. Russian media immediately reported that he died of a “heart attack” while D.C. officials eventually released a statement saying he died of “blunt force trauma”, which only served to heighten suspicions. Nearly a year later, however, the autopsy was released. It listed the death — ready for this? — as having been caused by nothing more than a drunken fall.
Mystery solved. Or is it?
Oh, but look how far we’ve digressed. We’re supposed to be showing y’all the house! Yolanda is a bit surprised by this purchase, honestly. After his father’s death, we kinda thought Mr. Lessine would want to lay low or that he would no longer have access to such huge sums of moolah.
But it is now apparent that though Mr. Lesin lies cold in his grave, the family money train continues to flow freely. Right? Right. Time to check out the real estate.
From what Yolanda can tell, the home is situated on a .42-acre lot and was constructed with all the requisite high-tech gizmos and gadgets. The listing described the architecture as “luxurious East Coast traditional melds seamlessly into modernized farmhouse vernacular”. Hmm. Alrighty, then! Yolanda would call it a good ol’ Traditional with a Colonial influence and a spiffy (if conservative) interior, but that’s just us. We’re basic like that.
Whatever the architectural style, the driveway is definitely double-gated and the pebble (woodchip?) drive wraps around in front of the somewhat-charming front porch to the front-facing three car garage. Call us picky, kids, but for almost $16 million Yolanda does not want a front-facing garage of any size on our big ass mansion. But we understand that space is limited here, yada yada. And you know what? The garage situation certainly did not deter buyers. The sale price of $15.8 million is actually a full $805,000 more than the last asking price of $14,995,000. This indicates that Mr. & Mrs. Lessine may have fought off some stiff (and deep-pocketed) competition for this property.
Designed by Palisades-mansion-specialist Ken Ungar, the house has a warm, modern flow. There are a variety of dining options — Yolanda counts three dining tables that seat 8 or humans apiece. Folding doors invite the backyard inside and vice versa in the oh-so-quintessentially-Southern California manner. Wide-plank oak (?) floors look great in here and save the rooms from lookin’ too formal/stuffy.
The kitchen opens to the family room (and the backyard) and comes equipped with not one, not two, but three islands. Because why the hell not, eh? Countertops are marble and the multitude of appliances — seriously, there are a full Sears store worth of appliances up in here — are all high-end.
A total of 9 bathrooms and 7 bedrooms (five of them suites located upstairs) fill the 11,150-square-foot crib.
Sumptuous is a good word for the master suite — it’s got the tufted California king, a cozy sitting room, a bathrooms wrapped almost entirely in Carrara marble, and a walk-in closet with a crystal chandelier.
As is to be expected of a house of this caliber, there are lots of fancy toys for the rich homeowners. These include a “pool room” with what looks awfully like a pricey James Perse pool table and a full wet bar. Then there is a wine cellar, a gym w/ massage table, and a cavernous home theater.
The best thing about the Amalfi Rim property, however, isn’t the house. It’s the lovely view over the treetops that takes in the Santa Monica mountains, those California sunsets, and a sliver of the silvery Pacific Ocean.
The Riviera neighborhood — so named because of its adjacency to the fiendishly expensive Riviera Country Club — has long been considered the most desirable section of Pacific Palisades and is enormously popular with family-oriented celebrities. Some of the Lessine clan’s nearest neighbors include Molly Sims, Kate Hudson, Sam Raimi, Conan O’Brien, and Jessica Chastain.
Alrighty then. Yolanda already mentioned that Mr. & Mrs. Lessine own multiple other multi-million dollar homes in Los Angeles, so let’s have a quick peek at them, too.
In August 2011, Mikhail Lesin paid $13,800,000 for a 1980s manor house in the super-exclusive guard-gated community of Beverly Park. It is our understanding that the property (which is right next door to Magic Johnson’s house!) underwent a long period of renovations and has been vacant since Mr. Lesin’s death. In February 2017, the house (which sports oblique views of the LA basin) was put up for sale with an optimistic $29,000,000 pricetag.
For unknown reasons, Mr. & Mrs. Lessine paid $3,995,000 for a striking 1980s contemporary in the luxe but somewhat remote “Highlands” area of Pacific Palisades. They closed on the property in late September 2015, just a month prior to Mr. Lesin’s sudden death.
We say “for unknown reasons” because we know that neither of the Lessines have ever occupied the 4,785-square-foot house. Yolanda can only assume the property must be utilized as some sort of guest house for family and/or staff members.
And finally, Mr. & Mrs. Lessine’s main residence for the last five years has been a bloated behemoth of a mansion in the proverbial heart of the super-chic Brentwood Park neighborhood. Back in February 2012 — when they were both still in their late 20s — the wealthy young couple plunked down $9,000,000 (in cash) on the spec-built mansion.
The Italianate beast has formal gardens and a Palladian-style entrance that is meant to wow all guests. There’s also underground parking, a pool/spa, and a guest house all on a .63-acre lot. The 13,500-square-foot residence packs in 7 beds and 12 baths spread across three full levels of living space.
Yolanda does not pretend to have even the foggiest idea about why Mr. & Mrs. Lessine would spend nearly $16 million to leave their Brentwood Park mansion and move to a slightly smaller Pacific Palisades mansion less than two miles away (as the crow flies). But that’s what they did, and they’ve already moved in.
Anyone know why? Bueller? The only reason we can conjure up is that they want the lovely view that the Amalfi Rim gives them. And there’s more celebrities out on the Riviera, if they care about that.
Or maybe they’re just so filthy rich that they change mansions every few years just because they can. Honestly, that sounds way more plausible.