Real Estate Bulletin: Feds attempt to seize Holmby Hills mega-mansion
Welcome to the real estate newsletter. It’s been a juicy week on luxury beats, and our best stories have a bit of everything: corruption allegations, stardom, eye candy, and a small dose of dangerous ambition.
First, alleged bribes. When a Holmby Hills mega-mansion, just a few houses from the Playboy mansion, went up for sale at $63.5 million, it looked like another luxury listing. But federal prosecutors decided to seize the estate, alleging its owner, a powerful Armenian politician, bought the 33,652-square-foot storefront with kickbacks.
We spoke to the listing agent, who said despite all the drama, the house is still up for grabs.
Second, fame. The week’s headlines focused on a pair of high-profile sales – one post-move and one posthumous.
The post-move deal was struck by Adam Levine, who moved into Rob Lowe’s $52 million Montecito mansion in March. A few months later, the Maroon 5 frontman unloaded his Pacific Palisades estate for $51 million, making it one of the most expensive deals in coastal community history.
The posthumous deal was made by Alex Trebek—actually his widow, Jean—who sold the late “Jeopardy!” the host’s longtime home in Studio City for $6.45 million. Trebek owned the location for nearly 30 years before his death in 2020, and the 1.5-acre expanse is about a 30-minute drive from the Culver City studio where the game show is filmed.
Third, eye candy. The biggest “pictures alone” story of the week belongs to Roger Vincent’s tour of Riot Games, the game developer responsible for the massively popular “League of Legends.” The sprawling West LA headquarters is a gamer’s paradise with a free employee dining hall, an auditorium built for esports competition, and a cafe designed to resemble Bilgewater, a legendary port city of the blockbuster game.
Dangerous ambition finally. The story takes us back to 1998, when a landslide slid several houses down a rain-soaked hill. Homes have been destroyed, condos have been damaged and now a developer is looking to build a condo complex on the same site 24 years later. Needless to say, locals are worried.
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The feds seek to seize a mega-mansion
For sale: a French chateau-style mansion in one of Los Angeles’ most exclusive neighborhoods, Holmby Hills, with 11 bedrooms, 27 bathrooms and an asking price of $63.5 million.
At 33,652 square feet, it’s among the largest homes on the Southern California market, but there are a few issues. For one thing, the interior isn’t finished yet. And, this week, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles decided to seize the estate, alleging it was the result of corruption involving a powerful Armenian politician and his children.
The US Department of Justice explained in a court filing how the South Mapleton Drive property – a short walk from the Playboy Mansion – was bought in 2011 for $14.4 million with kickbacks from the family of Gagik Khachatryan, the former Armenian finance minister, is a prominent businessman there.
Khachatryan, 66, his two sons and the businessman all face criminal charges in Armenia; the businessman is accused of having paid more than 20 million dollars in bribes.
Adam Levine will seek a fortune in the palisades
Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine quickly found a buyer in Pacific Palisades, selling his prized compound for $51 million. It’s the third most expensive home sale in Southern California this year and one of the biggest deals ever in the coastal community.
Levine and his wife, model Behati Prinsloo, bought the park-like estate from Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner for $31.95 million in 2018 — so the sale represents a huge profit for the power couple. Over the years, other high-profile owners included “To Kill a Mockingbird” actor Gregory Peck and Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer.
Sprawling over three acres, the resort includes three structures: a 9,000-square-foot ranch-style house, a four-bedroom guest house, and a separate building with a gym, office, and yoga studio. Mid-century architect Cliff May designed the ranch, which combines chic, modern design with luxury amenities including a Dolby movie theater, game room, marble bar and walk-in refrigerator .
‘Peril!’ the host’s house changes hands
Alex Trebek’s Studio City estate – that the late “Jeopardy!” host held for three decades until his death in 2020 – was sold for $6.45 million.
That’s exactly triple the price Trebek paid in 1991 when he bought it for $2.15 million, records show. His widow, Jean, put the house up for sale for $7 million in January. His daughter, Emily Trebek of Compass, handled the sale.
The $6.45 million deal ranks as the second most expensive home sale in Studio City this year, and this tab should come as no surprise. The 99-year-old home is 10,000 square feet and sits on 1.5 acres in Fryman Estates, one of the most expensive pockets in the neighborhood.
Inside are five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and a handful of lavish living areas. There’s a two-story entrance with dual stairs, a lounge under a dramatic rotunda, and a gold and white wet bar.
Riot Games’ LA house is a gamer’s paradise
Riot Games’ headquarters on Olympic Boulevard in West LA is almost invisible to passers-by, largely a discreetly enclosed campus where security is tightened to protect the work that can proliferate far beyond gaming into the riches promised by the television and film, writes commercial real estate reporter Roger Vincent.
The Times got a rare glimpse of Riot Games’ newly expanded base, which gives off distinct movie studio vibes. Here are the highlights.
- Three cinemas, two of which were once used by legendary directors James Cameron and George Lucas.
- A dining commissary called Noms which includes one of the largest commercial kitchens on the Westside, serving a wide range of food which changes daily and is provided free of charge to the company’s 3,100 employees.
- A recreation of a Korean arcade called PC Bang, where employees can play multiplayer computer games such as “League of Legends” – without the hourly fees that arcade patrons have to pay.
- Giant statues of Annie and Tibbers, characters from “League of Legends”.
And much more.
Developer seeks to build on site of devastating landslide
In 1998, after a winter of heavy rains, the hill below Via Estoril collapsed at Laguna Niguel. Several houses slipped, others were destroyed and the condominiums below were heavily damaged, writes Hannah Fry.
Now a developer is offering new condominiums at the bottom of the hill. Improvements made since the landslide will prevent the disaster from happening again, project developers say.
However, residents fear that the new project will destabilize the hill and cause it to collapse again.
What we read
As the California real estate market moves away from the middle class, the concept of pay it forward is making its way into housing. Fortune Tells the Story of a Silicon Valley woman whose house is worth over $1 million but decided to sell it to a trust for half of its market value as part of an “age in place” initiative which allows long-term owners to stay in their homes while the trust deals with maintenance. Upon his death, the prized property will be turned into affordable housing.
Enough words. If you have come this far, I suggest an interactive map from MarketWatch. It tracks housing availability across the country and found that inventory in LA County is down 25% since 2017. The decline becomes even more dramatic along the coast, with the county’s inventory in Orange down 38%, Ventura County down 45%, and Santa Barbara County down 56%.