A long time ago, in a galaxy not-so-far away, members of society’s ultra-elite conspired to build themselves a private paradise, a hedonistic haven surrounded by walls and gates. A sanctuary safely away from the anguished moans and groans of the bitterly broke plebes. A sanctuary where residents take comfort in knowing each of their neighbors is as sick-rich as they are. A sanctuary where billionaire homeowners are the norm, not the anomalies.
Thus, Beverly Park was born. And for many years it has reigned unchallenged as LA’s most exclusive, most expensive, most outrageous, most infamous gated community. Imagine a real-life Candyland, except instead of gumdrop forests there are steroidal mega-mansions — one after another after another.
But within the guard-gated confines of this fanciful fortress, whispers of trouble abound. Residents daren’t speak openly about it for fear of reprisal from the Grim Reaper himself: their strict HOA, which could potentially ban them from the next Holiday Party! (Just kidding. Maybe?)
You see, there’s a problem in Beverly Park. Their mega-mansion prices have been stagnant for years. While other 90210 neighborhoods like Trousdale Estates and the Flats have seen property values soar, prices in the big B.P. are barely better now than ten or twelve years ago. Nearly all recent sales have rung in around the $25 million mark. For most billionaires, of course, that’s relative chump change.
But why this conundrum? The culprit, according to one theory oft-banded about in high-end realtor circles, could be the thing many current Beverly Park residents treasure most: the privacy and seclusion of their neighborhood. Located way high up in the mountains above Beverly Hills, accessing the community requires a serious trek. Trust Yolanda when she says Pilgrim’s Progress ain’t got a thing on this journey. And once you’re inside the gates, good luck leaving again without a backpack full of supplies. Need a quick snack? The nearest gas station/food joint is probably a good 10 minutes away (by car). And that’s being optimistic.
Believe it or not, but LA’s buyers of $30 million mansions tend to be fairly young — either they inherited money or they amassed it very quickly via entrepreneurial endeavors — and they usually want a house close to LA’s iconic hotspots: the Sunset Strip, downtown Beverly Hills, Hollywood.
Despite its mountainous location, most Beverly Park properties do not have showstopping city lights views. And most wealthy buyers are looking for sleek, chic, minimalist contemporary mansions these days. Nearly all B.P. homes are ornate French or Tuscan-influenced things. Add up all those “issues” and y’all can see why these Bev Park behemoths are often a tough sell.
Anyway, Yolanda could ramble on about Beverly Park until the cows come home, pigs fly and the angels sing Bohemian Rhapsody, but we’ll quit digressing.
Today’s giant Beverly Park house was built in 1999 and long owned by retired professional slugger Barry Bonds. In early 2014, after over a year of trying, he managed to unload it for $22,000,000 to a low-profile Russian businessman named Alexey Kurochkin.
Fast forward to late 2016, when the lucky Mr. Kurochkin flipped the property for $26.5 million to Yongbin Luo and Ruixie Huang, a married Mainland Chinese couple who made their fortune in the apparel industry. Longtime readers may recall that Yolanda discussed this house shortly after their purchase.
Unfortunately for Mr. Luo and Ms. Huang’s pocketbooks, they soon tired of Beverly Park — or something — because the property was back on the market less than two years later.
Well, the mansion has sold yet again — it closed a few days ago — for $23,000,000. That’s a huge sum of money, of course, but it also represents a $3.5 million loss for the Huang-Luos — and that’s not counting taxes, hefty realtor fees and closing costs. Ouch!
The discount buyer is a lady from Hong Kong named Chen Ningning, better-known in the West by her Americanized name: Diana Chen. According to Forbes, 48-year-old Ms. Chen is a self-made billionairess.
Born into a well-to-do and politically influential family, Ms. Chen obtained an MBA from New York Institute of Technology before returning to Hong Kong and — at the tender age of 25 — partnering with her mother to found Pioneer Iron and Steel Group (PISG). By the new millennium’s dawn, PISG had grown to become one of China’s leading mineral traders. At one point the company accounted for 10% of all iron ore imported into the country.
However, PISG spectacularly combusted in 2010, declaring bankruptcy amid crippling debts totaling $500 million. But Ms. Chen had used PISG’s banner years to make a series of highly lucrative investments in other companies, leaving her an inordinately wealthy woman.
Today, Ms. Chen remains very high-profile in her native China — after all, she’s one of the country’s richest female tycoons — and is popularly known as the “Steel Princess,” both for her mineral interests and for her success in the traditionally male-dominated Chinese business world.
That’s not to say Ms. Chen is without her detractors. As PISG’s sole shareholder, she was harshly criticized for her (allegedly) shady handling of the company’s finances. Public accusations say she hid global assets from creditors. Naturally, lawsuits and years-long money squabbles ensured. (Those matters were later resolved via settlements.)
Although it hasn’t been widely reported, Yolanda’s research reveals Ms. Chen has created a family office called Yintai Investments HK to manage her vast billion-dollar worldwide investments. Her latest entrepreneurial endeavor involves the creation of a US property empire. And in fact, she has already accumulated significant holdings in both Texas and Northern California. Just for starters.
Last year, Ms. Chen opened an official American arm of her holding company. Known as Yintai Investment Co., the firm now has offices right near the heart of downtown Beverly Hills. We presume this expansion was done to better manage her growing portfolio of LA properties and other investments.
Which, of course, finally brings us to her $23 million mansion in Beverly Park.
The Tuscan-style manor spans a plus-size 17,100-square-feet with 7 bedrooms and 10.5 bathrooms. Sited on a 1.85-acre lot ringed by lovely olive trees, the estate features a primary motorcourt anchored by a stone fountain and a secondary (overflow?) motorcourt by the four-car garage. The glassy entryway and whimsical hand-painted murals in the foyer are guaranteed to impress even the most jaded guests.
It appears Mr. Luo and Ms. Huang made few decor alterations during their 2+ years of ownership. In fact, nearly all the floors and curtains (and even some of the furniture!) is the exact same.
The one exception is the kitchen, which has been completely remodeled and now features an intricately-patterned tile (?) floor, cabinets painted a delicate shade of lavender and a “jewel-like” La Cornue range. That thing looks enormous and probably cost more than a new Camry.
The master bedroom flaunts its vaulted ceiling with lookalike gold leaf appliqué, and the all-beige master bath has additional gold accents plus the requisite steam shower and sauna.
An elevator transports humans down to the lower level, where there’s a rather Rococco home theater with hand-painted murals and an enormous wet bar.
The estate has no views, but the spacious lot includes sprawling lawns, a lighted sports court, a pool/spa combo, numerous loggias and a guesthouse that’s basically a mini-replica of the main mansion.
Truthfully, we dunno if Ms. Chen plans to reside in this Beverly Park behemoth or if it’s just another investment. But we do know — for a fact — that this place is not her only extravagant LA house.
Back in late 2017, records show Ms. Chen coughed up $19,250,000 for a brand-new contemporary mansion high in the Bel Air hills, directly overlooking the picturesque Stone Canyon Reservoir.
Designed by the fine folks at ANR Signature Collection, The sleek manse sports nearly 12,000-square-feet of living space. Still, that wasn’t enough room for Ms. Chen — just two weeks after closing, she baller-style dropped another $7,821,000 on the Tuscan-style villa directly across the street.
To be honest, kids, Yolanda has no idea who (if anyone) lives in either of the two Bel Air mansions. Maybe they function as Ms. Chen’s private retreat. Maybe it’s a relative, or maybe the homes are vacant.
Point is, Ms. Chen now owns three LA mansions worth a staggering $50 million in total. And that’s a lot of money. But it’s probably nothing crazy to a billionaire lady from Hong Kong, where $446 million will barely get you a teardown.
Listing & Selling agent: Tomer Fridman, Compass