For whatever reason, the ultra-high-end real estate market in Malibu has been sizzlin’ hot this year. Normally, kids, we only see maybe one or two sales per year up in that rarefied billionaires-only arena ($30 million+). But there have already been at least five in 2017 — and we ain’t even halfway through!
Y’all should already know about the record-busting $85 million transaction that saw David Geffen selling his Carbon Beach spread to an out-of-state billionaire businessman and his wife. Also well-known is how Hong Kong billionaire Karen Lo paid $70 million for an epic — if infamous — blufftop compound in guard-gated Serra Retreat. Larry Ellison added another trophy Carbon Beach mansion (it’s his thirteenth house on that beach) to his portfolio for the paltry sum of $48 million, and a famous philanthropist sold her contemporary Malibu Colony casa for $36 million to a billionaire financier (more on that coming soon, we promise).
Quick on the heels of all those off-market deals comes yet another huge splash of moolah. This one, however, involves a multi-structure compound in the proverbial heart of Malibu’s coveted and super-prime Paradise Cove neighborhood. Paradise Cove, in case y’all aren’t familiar with Malibu geography, lies much further up the coast than Carbon Beach, Serra Retreat, or Malibu Colony. And it’s just Yolanda’s opinion, but we think Paradise Cove is the nicest area of the city. It’s the place where Yolanda would choose to plunk down the cash, had we tens of millions of dollars to spend on a house in Malibu.
But we already digress. This particular blufftop compound was never on the market, but records reveal it traded hands in April (2017) for a whopping $38,500,000. The seller, records also reveal, was Home Shopping Network‘s favorite vitamin pusher: Andrew Lessman. The buyer, perhaps surprisingly, is not a billionaire financier or foreign potentate but rather a local and long-married designer couple named Richard and Laurie Lynn Stark.
Mr. & Mrs. Stark, if you haven’t heard of them, are the unlikely entrepreneurs who own and operate the wildly successful and celebrity-loved Chrome Hearts lifestyle brand. They design everything from jewelry to furniture to staplers to incense — and just about anything in between.
We say “unlikely” entrepreneurs because the couple had little conventional experience in business before they started their company nearly 30 years ago, back in 1988. Our Mr. Stark was a carpenter who also sold leather hides to manufacturers. As for Mrs. Stark, she is a graduate of LA’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) who — prior to Chrome Hearts — designed her own swimwear line that was briefly carried by Fred Segal. Oh, and she’s got more than 23,000 followers on that Instagram thingamajig.
It was Mr. Stark who founded the company with his two roommates. The trio began making clothes for their famous friends — the Sex Pistols, Guns ‘N Roses, Cher — until one day they got their big break thanks to Tommy Perse’s iconic Maxfield outlet.
Mr. Perse apparently saw the sales potential in the goth-luxe Chrome Hearts line and placed the items in his store. Soon Bergdorf’s was calling and Vogue ran a spread of models photographed wearing Chrome Hearts gear. And the rest is, well, history.
In 1992, Mr. Stark had a falling-out with his partners and bought them out of the business. That was a wise choice, Yolanda thinks. Ever since then, Laurie Stark has been Mr. Stark’s business partner. And this couple is ludicrously wealthy partially because they don’t have any other owners to split the profits with. Must be nice!
Despite all their celebrity associations, the Starks and Chrome Hearts remain deliberately low-profile, even secretive. They don’t do e-commerce, they rarely advertise, and don’t even dare ask for an interview. They only recently joined Instagram — where they already have more than 400,000 followers, if you’re counting. It’s a tight-lipped operation and that’s the way they like it. And that rules-flouting has helped keep the brand cool and hip through the decades, eh? In addition to their stores in LA and Malibu, Chrome Hearts has locations in London, Miami, Las Vegas, and recently opened a massive new flagship store in New York City (Mrs. Stark did deign to talk to the Hollywood Reporter about that one).
But it is Asia, Yolanda thinks, where the lion’s share of Chrome Hearts profits come from. The line has 19 brick-and-mortar locations on that continent, including 10 in Japan alone. Describing it as incredibly popular over there perhaps doesn’t do it justice. Our Mr. & Mrs. Stark can thank the many big-name Japanese celebrities who worship the label for their massive fanbase out there, we think.
And rest assured the Starks aren’t peddling their wares at Macy’s prices. A pair of sunglasses can easily run y’all $2,000. Fancy a hand-carved dining room table? That’ll be at least $250,000, please. Oh, and don’t count on any of those “buy one get one half off” sales anytime soon.
The Starks have three children, a daughter in her early 20s and teenage twins.
But let’s get back on track and discuss the Stark real estate. Though the property has a Pacific Coast Highway address, their new compound actually lies off the main highway on a wee little lane. A wrought iron gate swings open and the long driveway continues down the to the smallish motorcourt. It appears to Yolanda that there are no fewer than four separate structures on the property, none of which is anything resembling a mansion.
If you wanna talk prices, the 2.77-acre compound previously sold back in July 2012 for just $13,000,000. It doesn’t appear that Mr. Lessman tore down the existing structures, but he must’ve made significant renovations for the property to have tripled in value within five years, right? Let’s hope so. Below are photos of the property from back in 2012 that may or may not be accurate representations of its current state.
Naturally, the main selling point is the glorious view and easy access (via a twisty staircase) to Malibu’s best beach. The main house (it’s more like a cottage, really) was built in 1946 and sports 3 bedrooms, a living room, and a trellised patio overlooking the beach. There’s also a large “back house” that apparently — according to the old listing — has 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. Hmmm. It doesn’t look very big so Yolanda is a bit skeptical of those numbers, but okay.
Now, fair warning for y’all: it is time to fasten your real estate safety belts. Why? Because a quick stroll through property records reveals that Mr. & Mrs. Stark maintain a ludicrously expensive portfolio of luxury homes that together are worth in excess of $100 million. And those are just the ones Yolanda knows about. Seriously, kids, we don’t know the Starks’ net worth, but these people are as ballerific as they come. Who knew peddlin’ hand-carved jewelry (and lots of other things) could be so lucrative?
In addition to their new, nearly-$40 million spread on Paradise Cove, the Starks own and maintain no fewer than six other multi-million dollar homes in Malibu. In the guard-gated Serra Retreat community, they own a multi-acre compound that happens to be only a two-minute walk from the much larger property that — as already mentioned — recently sold for $70 million to a lady from Hong Kong.
Records show that the Starks paid $3,000,000 exactly for this 2.93-acre estate back in 1996. There appears to be a brick-surrounded pool plus a proper north/south tennis court and even horse stables with a riding area. The rambling two-story main house has 5,833-square-feet with 4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.
Oh, did we mention that the Starks also love the guard-gated and super-expensive Malibu Colony community? Because they do. Records reveal they own not one, not two, but three different homes within the gates, a couple of which are currently available for rent.
The first of their three Colony houses (above) is an oceanfront situation for which they paid $4,750,000 way back in 2003. The itty-bitty cottage has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in a shack-sized 1,167-square-feet. But it’ll still run you a hefty $75,000 per month to rent this place.
The Starks also lay claim to a somewhat bedraggled-lookin’ house on the land side of Malibu Colony. Property records say this pool-equipped place has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in 1,534-square-feet of living space. Our Mr. & Mrs. Stark forked out $4,225,000 for the house in late 2016, at which time it looked abandoned and in need of fixin’.
And finally, the most impressive of their three Malibu Colony homes is a wood-sided structure with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms in 2,690-square-feet. Property records show that the Starks paid $4,000,000 to acquire this property in 2001. The unique thing about this house, kiddies, is that it is the very last house on the south side of the Colony and thus has incredible southward views plus a fat 48 feet of beach frontage.
The gated and heavily secured structure has an updated kitchen, light-flooded rooms, and an outdoor deck that’s perfect for soaking up the rays. Looks nice, huh? Well, you’re in luck — you can live just like the fancy Mr. & Mrs. Stark for the low, low price of $140,000 per month.
Seem pricey? Perhaps, but think of it this way: a three-month stay in this house would barely cover a full year of property taxes alone on the Starks’ new Paradise Cove compound. Yikes!
In addition to their homes on Paradise Cove and in Serra Retreat and Malibu Colony, Mr. & Mrs. Stark also own at least two more Malibu homes, both located in the rugged hills high above Pacific Coast Highway.
So obviously this couple really loves Malibu. But don’t think they’re stuck in that little beachy bubble — they visit other places, too. Back in January 2015, Mr. & Mrs. Stark hopped on their private jet and laid out a breathtaking $23,500,000 for a gorgeous (and historic!) 128-acre ranch in the billionaire winter playground of Aspen, Colorado.
Little Woody Creek Ranch (also known as the Catto Ranch) is achingly picturesque and includes three single-family homes plus caretakers’ quarters, dozens of acres of grass and woodlands, and even two natural ponds — mini lakes, if you prefer.
Back in 1982, the ranch was sold for just $460,000 to Henry Catto, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador under Nixon, chief of protocol to the White House & State Department and the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. under the Ford administration; a consultant to President Carter, and Ambassador to Britain and head of the U.S. Information Agency under the first President Bush. Whew! That’s quite a diplomatic life.
The ranch has its own claim to fame: it’s the place where President George H.W. Bush and Margaret Thatcher met when Iraq invaded Kuwait and is where they both agreed the invasion could not be tolerated. So you can think of this ranch — peaceful and far removed from manmade troubles though it may seem — as the kickoff to the Gulf War.
Now then, kids. In case you still don’t realize how very rich Mr. and Mrs. Stark are, let’s take a peek at the — ahem — “starter” house that was purchased by their adult daughter Jesse Jo Stark a couple years ago.
In December 2014, the then-23-year-old Jesse Jo (JoJo for short) paid an eyebrow-raising $4,600,000 for a Colonial-style house on one of the best streets in all of Santa Monica. Records reveal the home was sold by band-aid heiress Libet Johnson.
The musically-inclined and Instagram-famous Chrome Hearts heiress — whose godmother is Cher and who just released a fashion collaboration with her best friend Bella Hadid — lays claim to a .28-acre property with a family-sized 3,102-square-feet of living space with 4 bedrooms (including a maid’s room) and 4 bathrooms, plus a pool, a pizza oven, a library, a guest house, a kitchen with top-grade appliances, and a sauna.
How many 23-year-olds do you know that live like that? Not many, Yolanda would wager.
And there’s yet still more real estate. Records show that the Stark family lays claim to a luxury condo in Santa Monica (CA) and a huge swath of land in Calabasas (CA). Yolanda imagines the Stark family must also own something in New York — where their Chrome Hearts flagship store is located — but sorry kids, we really don’t know anything about that.
Oh, and just for shits and giggles: one of Mr. & Mrs. Stark’s nearest new neighbors on Paradise Cove is soap opera scion Bill Bell Jr. and his art-collecting wife Maria Arena Bell. The Bells recently pissed off all their neighbors to Timbuktu and beyond when they installed an unpermitted 45-foot tall sculpture in the front yard of their massive estate. This would’ve normally been okay, of course, except that this particular sculpture looked like a giant penis and was — we repeat — 45 damn feet tall.
After repeated entreaties by the city, who came close to filing criminal charges against the couple, the Bells finally disassembled the blufftop blight a couple months ago. RIP.
Yolanda’s bit of unsolicited advice to the Starks: don’t put up any sculptures of massive, engorged penises and y’all should be just fine.
Mr. & Mrs. Stark’s agent: Chris Cortazzo, Coldwell Banker