If you have many millions of dollars and you’re looking to invest in residential Los Angeles real estate, we highly recommend considering the Beverly Hills Flats neighborhood. Prices out there have been skyrocketing for the past eight years or so, and the rapid upward trajectory shows no signs of abatement. Though the once-fiery hot LA high-end market has cooled somewhat over the past year, the Flats apparently has yet to receive the memo. Folks will still pay just about anything for a chance to own in the area, and you’ve gotta work extremely hard to not make money by owning Flats real estate.
A perfect example is today’s property, which is located on one of the Flats’ most desirable roads and is sited directly across the street from the LA residence of Garmin billionaire Min Kao. Originally listed in February (2018), the Mediterranean-ish villa was saddled with a hefty $23,800,000 pricetag.
Now, most $23.8 million houses take months — even years — to sell, if they sell at all. But not this place. The property transferred to a new owner after just one month on the market, for the sale price of $23,500,000. For y’all non-math majors, that means the buyer paid 98.7% of the asking price. And what’s more, the sale was all cash. Ka-ching!
This isn’t quite the most expensive Flats home sale ever, but it’s certainly up there. We’re sure the sellers — a powerhouse attorney named Andrew White and his longtime wife Dr. Elisa Newman — are quite happy with the final outcome. Though we can’t tell when exactly they acquired this estate, it was not within the last 20 years. The couple custom-built the current residence way back in 2000, and y’all can be certain that they spent a mere fraction of the $23.5 million sale price it just fetched.
And as for the buyer, it turns out he is a businessman named Eric Baker.
45-year-old Mr. Baker was born and raised in the Beverly Hills Flats neighborhood. In fact, his parents — Malcolm and Norma Baker — once owned the world’s largest protective services company, and they continue to reside in Mr. Baker’s childhood home, which happens to be only a couple blocks away from the $23.5 million spread he just purchased.
We assume Mr. Baker could’ve easily opted for a leisurely, carefree lifestyle funded by his parents’ wealth, but this type-A fellow is much more of a go-getter than that. Indeed, his résumé bristles with high-falutin’ names — he has a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard and an MBA from Stanford GSB, arguably the world’s most prestigious and selective business school. He worked as a consultant for McKinsey and then had a stint with Bain Capital.
In 2000, Mr. Baker co-founded StubHub with his Stanford classmate Jeff Fluhr. By 2006, the online event ticket exchange platform was one of the nation’s fastest-growing companies and had made Mr. Baker and Mr. Fluhr wealthy men.
While the business was going swimmingly, all was not well personally between StubHub’s two co-founders. Mr. Baker and Mr. Fluhr reportedly had a falling-out sometime around 2006. Because Mr. Baker owned less stock than Mr. Fluhr, the latter had control of the board of directors and was able to unceremoniously fire the former from the company. To hear Mr. Baker tell it, it sounds as though he was gone from the company he built after a mere two-minute conversation. (In 2007, however, he still made bank when StubHub was sold to eBay for $310 million).
Despite his ouster, Mr. Baker persevered. That same year — 2006 — he moved to London and founded Viagogo, an online ticket marketplace for ticket resale. While not well-known here in the States, the company has grown to become one of the largest ticket resellers in Europe and is now estimated to be worth many hundreds of millions of dollars.
While undeniably successful, Viagogo has been the target of widespread criticism and numerous lawsuits in Europe for their hidden fees and alleged price gouging. In May 2018, a UK minister told his country’s citizens “don’t choose Viagogo — they are the worst.” There’s a Victims of Viagogo group (with thousands of members) on Facebook. Also in 2018, FIFA filed a criminal complaint against the firm. And in late 2017, investigators raided Viagogo’s UK offices as part of a probe into criminal ticket scalping.
The Guardian asked “Is Viagogo one of the worst businesses in Britain?” and a Daily Mail investigation found that the firm sold an £18 Taylor Swift concert ticket for £240 on their website, more than 13 times the original face value. Ouch!
As for Mr. Baker himself, he has attracted a massive amount of online hatred for his role as the company’s CEO. His YouTube interviews and online articles have been besieged by negative remarks, with folks labelling him unkind terms like “scum” and “con merchant“.
Through all the controversy, however, Mr. Baker has remained silent. He has refused to comment on any allegations by Viagogo’s critics, and has become known as reclusive. That’s a bit surprising because Mr. Baker is actually a very articulate and charismatic fellow, as seen from old interviews on the YouTube.
Yolanda knows precious little about the low-profile Mr. Baker’s personal life, other than he is married to his longtime lady-love Nicole. We do think the couple have children, but we confess complete ignorance as to their name(s) and age(s). But we digress — before we yammer on any further about this assorted silliness, let’s discuss the house.
The sprawling main residence — a vaguely Mediterranean-inspired sort of affair — clocks in with a portly 10,288-square-feet of living space. There are 7 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms. The 1.16-acre double-size lot — unusually large for the somewhat tightly-packed Flats neighborhood — is completely walled and gated for the utmost privacy and security. Large driveway gates swing inward, allowing access to the front-facing two-car garage. The driveway has additional off-street parking for at least four more vehicles, and there’s a secondary garage by the guesthouse and accessed through the alleyway out back.
Per the listing, the house was designed by the noted late architect Peter Choate, and the grounds were designed to feel like a private park. In this regard, we think the property succeeds admirably.
We are not so enamored of the home’s interior, however. There’s a bit too much honey-colored wood for our taste — particularly in the kitchen and great room. Possibly the place would look more elegant were the hardwood simply stained a darker color. Right now it reminds us of a cabin in Big Bear or Montana rather than a $23.5 million mansion in prime Beverly Hills.
Still, the residence is stuffed with luxury features: a screening room with a hand-painted ceiling, a master suite with his-and-hers baths and closets, high-end kitchen appliances, multiple fireplaces and a gym with private bath and sauna.
The enormous backyard is resort-style with a large saltwater pool, a reflecting pond (bigger than most pools around town), a full-size tennis court, grassy lawns, fruit trees, formal rose gardens, a built-in children’s playset, and a two-story guesthouse at the far rear of the estate.
As far as we know, Mr. Baker does not own any other real estate in the Los Angeles area. According to a Daily Mail investigation, he once owned a fancy flat in London’s hoity-toity Knightsbridge neighborhood, but that place was recently sold for £7.2 million (about $9.47 million USD at today’s currency conversion rates). He has also rented at least two different condos in New York City’s venerated 15 Central Park West building, one of the most prestigious addresses in Manhattan.