As we stare down the final weeks of 2018, the great Woodbridge sell-off continues.
Those of you who have been following this site (or real estate news in general) for some time should already be familiar with this saga: Woodbridge, the investment front for a now-defunct billion dollar Ponzi scheme, hoovered up dozens of prime LA properties over the last few years. After they were sued by the SEC, however, they went belly-up, eventually reached a settlement, and now their choicest real estate is surfacing on the market as part of ongoing bankruptcy/asset liquidation proceedings.
One of the most notable properties in the Woodbridge portfolio is a hulking mansion on a 4.5-acre Hollywood Hills promontory. Despite never having been owned by a celebrity, the house has become one of the most (in)famous in LA. That’s partly due to its very public nature — anyone down in Hollywood can see it squatting up there on yonder hill — and partly for its rather (ahem) “unique” architecture.
Anyway, the monstrosity went up for sale this June (2018) with a fat $35 million asking price.
According to public bankruptcy court documents, Woodbridge has accepted a $29,500,000 offer for the porker and the deal is done, done, done — save for final court sign-off. Should the transaction close prior to year’s end, it will rank as LA’s 18th-biggest residential sale of 2018.
The buyer, y’all may be interested to know, is a dude from Germany. He’s our very own Frank Binder.
Mr. Binder is a billionaire heir to the fortune of pharmaceutical giant Merck, which generates well over $15 billion USD in revenue every single year and has been majority family-owned since its 1668 founding, 350 years ago. The global conglomerate is now one of the world’s largest — and oldest — family-owned companies. If Mr. Binder’s name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because Yolanda first introduced y’all to him a few months ago, back when he and his American fiancee Alexandra Schuck paid a shocking $33 million for The Stanley House. But we digress for now.
Before we deal with the present, let’s revisit the past.
The oddball mansion was originally constructed back in 1990, according to records, and designed by an unknown (to Yolanda) architect. Quite possibly one of the weirdest homes in LA, the structure is one of those rare things that actually looks more bizarre the further away you get from it. From the driveway out front, we’d describe it as the bastard child of a Mormon temple, the Flintstones house and an igloo. But from the air, it appears more like a squashed wedding cake.
Anywho, despite its eccentric looks, the Mount Olympus property has one of the best views in LA and therefore attracted many rich buyers. The house changed hands several times in the 1990s before it was sold — way back in 2002 — for $4.4 million to a Las Vegas-based businessman named Eddy Aslanian.
Our boy Mr. Aslanian quickly became notorious for throwing wild and (allegedly) raunchy parties at this house, the sort of benders that go on all night and involve lots of shouting, boozing, and expensive cars racing up and down the street. During his ownership, the house also sported a backyard sand volleyball court (later removed) where young men and women could frequently be spied wearing skimpy bathing costumes or even less. Gossipy neighbors say that sometimes the young people had no clothes on at all!
Good heavens! All allegedly, of course.
Years ago, we heard repeatedly that the house has also served as the location for dozens — if not hundreds — of porn video shoots, though obviously Yolanda cannot independently verify that. Could be just another urban legend. Maybe someone who has done more naughty video “research” than your gurl could enlighten us all? Or don’t, that’s fine too.
Let’s move on. In late 2013, Mr. Aslanian sold 1 Electra Court to billionaire heiress Megan Ellison for $20,000,000. (He also sold her several acres of adjacent vacant hillside land for another $10,000,000, meaning Miss Ellison actually paid $30 million for the whole shebang). We’re sure all the neighbors rejoiced to see Mr. Aslanian pack his bags and skedaddle.
Rumor has it that although Miss Ellison moved into the mansion (after a HazMat suit-wearing cleaning crew had their way with it, we hope), she always planned to eventually demolish and replace it with a residential showstopper of her own creation. But Miss Ellison is also a notoriously fickle lass — at least when it comes to real estate — and so she never followed through with her demolition plans. Instead, she flipped the unchanged house and adjacent land to Woodbridge last year (2017). Records show that the Ponzi peeps coughed up a monstrous $35,530,000 for the 9+ acre estate.
Woodbridge also planned to eventually raze the ol’ gurl, but once again she was saved from the landfill — in this case, by the timely bankruptcy filing. And while it may seem that Woodbridge is losing money on this deal with Mr. Binder — he’s paying “just” $29.5 million — that’s actually not the case. You see, Woodbridge quietly sold some of their vacant hillside land earlier this year for exactly $12 million to a developer, shrinking the estate from 9+ acres to 4 and change. So in actuality, they got a total of $41.5 million ($29,500,000 + $12,000,000) for the whole property. Good for their creditors, we suppose.
Anyway, it ain’t likely that the lavish-living Mr. Binder and Miss Schuck will ever spend a night in this place — almost certainly they bought it for the land and the incredible jetliner views it affords, nothing more. And while we have no idea what they plan to build in its stead, the current listing includes plans for an uber-contemporary villa by architect Noah Walker.
In case y’all did not know, Mr. Walker is the guy responsible for one of Yolanda’s favorite houses in LA. The Oak Pass Residence, as it is known, is hidden way high up in Beverly Hills Post Office and was sold — a couple years ago — for exactly $20 million to a Chinese film producer. But we digress yet again.
The 35,000-square-foot showplace has multiple levels, two long ‘n skinny swimming pools, rooftop lawns, and acres of glass walls. If you ask Yolanda it rather looks like a military bunker transported from some faraway desert, but we doubt Mr. Binder, Miss Schuck and the architect give a hoot what we think.
And again, we have no idea if the Schuck-Binders will actually construct the giga-mansion you see in renderings above, or if they will fashion something of their own custom design.
While Miss Schuck and Mr. Binder await the completion of their new family-friendly Mount Olympus estate, they temporarily reside at their “starter” Hollywood Hills home, the sexed-up Stanley House.
The multi-level pad — which the couple bought for $33,000,000 earlier this year (in cash, naturally) features jaw-dropping views of the LA basin and the Pacific Ocean, an enormous swimming pool, and an at-home nightclub. What the property does not have, however, is much of a yard or outdoor space for kids to play. And given that Miss Schuck recently gave birth to the couple’s first child — congrats! — we can see why they were drawn to the much larger (4.5-acre) 1 Electra Court lot.
For those who haven’t kept up with their maths, Yolanda can tell y’all that Mr. Binder has now spent $62.5 million in less than one year on luxury LA real estate. Although he has never appeared on an international wealth ranking — presumably because Forbes and their ilk can’t tell which Merck family members own what — Yolanda finds it very hard to believe that Mr. Binder is not a billionaire. Particularly since these LA homes aren’t even his main residence.
For the last few years, Mr. Binder and Miss Schuck have primarily resided in Monte Carlo, Monaco, in an oceanfront villa within a guard-gated community.
Located on Avenue Princesse Grace, which has been called the world’s most expensive street, the approximately 6,000-square-foot villa contains 5 beds, 5 baths, a 5-car garage, and a perfectly circular infinity-edged swimming pool with views over the Mediterranean Sea and the Monte Carlo coastline.
The funny thing about all the couple’s recent spending in LA is that Mr. Binder — who is in his late 50s and has lived in Europe most all his life — probably wouldn’t have even bought in Los Angeles had not his young fiancee been born and raised here. But since he met Miss Schuck several years ago (while she was on a tour of Europe with her family) they’ve been living together and recently celebrated the birth of their first child, so it makes sense that they’d want a SoCal outpost near her friends and relatives.
When in LA, the Schuck-Binders typically stayed with Miss Schuck’s family at their longtime ranch compound in guard-gated Bradbury Estates, about 15 minutes (by car) east of Pasadena and deep in the San Gabriel Valley. The huge spread includes a 6,000-square-foot main house, a full-size tennis court, a pool, horse stables and an equestrian riding rink.
It is here, in Bradbury, where Miss Schuck was born and raised. Her parents (her father is a prominent LA attorney and former mayor of Bradbury) have owned their 5+ acre compound since before she was born — since 1987, in fact. Property records indicate they paid $1.7 million way back then, though the property has most assuredly appreciated by millions of dollars in the 31+ years since.
Just for giggles, we asked a couple of our real estate expert friends about what they imagine Mr. Binder is plotting for 1 Electra Court. They both opined that when a non-developer guy like Mr. Binder buys a $30 million teardown, it’s because he’s got a real severe hankerin’ to build a residential monument — an edifice that will span generations — to his wealth, power, and privilege.
And that, kiddies, is exactly what Yolanda expects Mr. Binder (and Miss Schuck) will do.