It seems as though gigantic, Rob Kardashian-sized mortgages have become quite the popular thing these days. Just to give y’all a couple examples, first there was Jay-Z & Beyoncé’s highly-publicized $52.8 million loan on their new $88 million Bel Air trophy compound. Hong Kong-based billionaire heiress/businesswoman Karen Lo paid $70 million in cash for her epic Malibu estate, but several months later borrowed $35 million against the property.
And then there’s Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, who also purchased his $88.3 mansion Holmby Hills mega-mansion in cash. But records show that he received a whopping $50 million mortgage scarcely a month ago (late September 2017). There are other big loans, of course, but those are the three fattest we’ve seen in the past few weeks.
Yolanda confesses that we are not entirely sure what has caused this conflagration of home liens and borrowed funds. These folks are billionaires! What do they need with a few extra tens of millions?
Well, we did a little asking around and everyone seems to have a different opinion. Some folks say it’s done merely to scare up some quick liquid cash for a new project. Interest rates are still relatively low, after all. Other more cynical folks — including Our Mama over at Variety magazine — point out that huge mortgages taken out on properties is an important step taught in Money Laundering 101. An offshore corporation buys the house in cash, then later takes out a mammoth mortgage from a legitimate bank. Voilà — clean money!
Not that we think that Beyoncé is hiding suitcases of dirty cash under her Lion King costume. Please don’t misunderstand Yolanda! And we have no reason to believe that Karen Lo and Yuri Milner are acting shady, either.
It’s worth noting, however, that both Mr. Milner’s and Ms. Lo’s homes are currently owned by offshore corporations formed in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven that prides itself on secrecy. Not that there’s anything wrong with setting up a corporation there, at least on the face of it. In another coincidence — or maybe not — both Mr. Milner’s and Ms. Lo’s jumbo mortgages were granted through Citibank. Oh, but we digress.
Anyway, we thought it’d be interesting to open a very brief discussion about Yuri Milner, because homeboy doesn’t get enough press on the real estate front. In our not-so-humble opinion, at least.
If Mr. Milner’s name sounds strange being associated with Holmby Hill’s Fleur de Lys mega-compound, you haven’t lost your mind. There was indeed some initial confusion about who actually purchased the property back in 2014. The house was bought by LLC, you see, that links directly back to the address of billionaire Michael Milken’s foundation. And then Mr. Milner was represented in the transaction by Mr. Milken’s real estate agent son-in-law Fred Bernstein. Beyond that, Mr. Milken threw some sort of party for his annual Milken Conference in the house back in 2014, shortly after it sold.
Naturally, many folks (yes, including Yolanda) initially assumed the buyer was Mr. Milken. That wasn’t the case, however. Our dude Yuri Milner is a very sneaky fellow. And in the years since the purchase, Yolanda first heard from Our Mama at Variety that the house is actually owned by Mr. Milner. Then we heard it from another person, and then another. And finally Yolanda confirmed it for ourselves. As ya’ll might expect, Mr. Milner and Mr. Milken are good friends and the former has been a recurring featured speaker at the annual Milken Conference, including at this year’s event.
Anywho. In 2016, title was transferred from the original LLC purchaser to Mr. Milner’s “Pollmark Limited” offshore entity. It was this British Virgin Islands entity that borrowed the $50 million, and records show that an attorney with clear links to Mr. Milner signed off on the documents.
As a quick refresher, the 35,000-square-foot, French limestone-slathered colossus was sold by divorcée Suzanne Saperstein and was built in 2002 by her ex-hubby as a modern day Versailles. Some folks might say it’s trashy and tacky, an ode to conspicuous consumption and a mightily expensive attempt by low-brow new money to purchase class and sophistication. Others admire the lovely symmetry of the gardens and argue that the home’s architecture stands far above that of, say, The Manor. Either way, all are agreed that this isn’t a warm and fuzzy home of the sort where one can lounge around on a armchair in one’s knickers, ya know?
To be certain, Mr. Milner is an interesting fellow who made much of his $3.5 billion net worth through strategic early investments in Facebook, Twitter, and Alibaba, among other techy companies. He also has a voracious appetite for extremely expensive homes. In addition to his nearly-$100 million Holmby Hills estate, he also owns another $100 million house up in Silicon Valley’s Los Altos Hills.
Like Fleur de Lys, Mr. Milner’s other California home also sports a fancy name (albeit one that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily): Palo Alto Loire Chateau. And also like F.D.L., the multi-winged sprawler was modeled after traditional 18th-century French architecture. The home weighs in at a mega-sized 25,545-square-feet of living space with 7 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms set on multiple acres of hilltop land.
More interesting to us than these California mansions, though, is Mr. Milner’s real estate story in New York. That’s because there is none! Not one NYC real estate-related article (at least that Yolanda can find) exists about him, though he is known to spend a significant amount of time in the city each year. In 2016, in fact, he was listed as one of the “New York elite” who hosted a welcome reception for Stephen Hawking when he visited the Big ol’ Apple.
So where does Mr. Milner reside? Hmmm. Could it be that Mr. Milner was the buyer of One57‘s top-level penthouse? The glassy duplex pad sold to a still-unidentified buyer for a nearly unbelievable $100.5 million in 2014, an amount that remains the most ever paid for a Manhattan condo.
Yolanda thinks he could be! And here’s why. For one, Mr. Milner clearly has no limits when it comes to real estate. And he’s got a peculiar fondness for residences around the $100 million mark. For another, he already owns a palatial duplex penthouse in Moscow, so Yolanda figures he might like something similar in the US of A. He also, as we’ve already established, likes lots of living space. At more than 11,000-square-feet, the One57 penthouse is absolutely giant (by Manhattan standards).
Though the One57 sale closed in late 2014, the purchase agreement was actually finalized back in May 2012, barely a year after Mr. Milner purchased his $100 million Los Altos Hills residence. At that time, kiddies, the world was still emerging from a powerful economic recession. Not many folks, even hedge fund tycoons, were looking to spend $100 million on a private residence. But Mr. Milner was, duh!
As always, we digress. Mr. Milner could very easily not be the buyer of the penthouse in question. But our speculation has been fueled by One57’s developer. At the time of purchase, the only clues he would provide were that the buyer was “someone recognizable” who had “a very nice family”, which could easily be Mr. Milner, his wife, and their three kids. But like we said, Yolanda has not one shred of evidence the buyer was Mr. Milner, so don’t nobody go waving around that guess like it’s gospel. Capiche?