Rupert Murdoch Buying Stein House

Times Staff Writer

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who last December completed his buy-out of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. from Denver oilman Marvin Davis for $325 million, is buying the home of the late Dr. Jules Stein, physician, philanthropist and creator of a billion-dollar entertainment empire.

That’s the word from informed sources, who couldn’t give the selling price but indicated that the Stein estate was asking $10 million for the 1927 mansion, which is expected to close escrow shortly.

Stein died in 1981, leaving his extensive art collection, personal items and Beverly Hills-area house to his widow, Doris, who died in 1984. Murdoch bought the house complete, sources say, with more than $2 million worth of art and antiques. The Steins had owned and operated collectors galleries in New York City.


Stein bought the house in 1940. About 20 years ago, he put it on the market for $250,000, then changed his mind about selling.

The house was built by the late great architect Wallace Neff, who designed many homes in the ‘20s and ‘30s for the rich and famous. He built the Stein house for Fred Niblo, who directed such silent films as “The Mark of Zorro” and “The Three Musketeers,” starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr.; and the original “Blood and Sand,” starring Rudolf Valentino, and “Ben Hur,” starring Ramon Novarro.

Niblo’s career faded with the advent of talkies, and he is said to have then rented out the house at various times to Nelson Eddy, Katharine Hepburn and other stars.

The two-story Spanish-style mansion has a red tile roof, stone facade, 14 rooms, circular courtyard with wishing well and Chinese elm in the center. It has a 600-foot long driveway, formal gardens, playground and swimming pool. The house sits on about seven acres with a panoramic view.

Australian-born Murdoch, 55, has been living in the United States since 1973. He became a U. S. citizen last September, removing a federal-government obstacle to his acquisition of Metromedia, the nation’s largest group of independent television stations, including KTTV in Los Angeles.

Hugh Hefner’s private, L. A. supper club has taken another step in becoming a medical facility.


Escrow has closed on the Playboy magazine publisher’s building at 8750 Beverly Blvd. The buyer was Cedars-Sinai.

For five years, the dazzling Art Deco decor dance floor that promoted touch dancing (which is why the club was called “Touch”) and fine food attracted such Hollywood luminaries as George Burns, Aaron Spelling, Sammy Davis Jr., Gabe Kaplan, Kenny Rogers, Mark Goodson and Dionne Warwick.

The club was probably ahead of its time. Now that “Tango Argentino” (playing at the Pantages in Hollywood) has revived interest in the tango, “Touch” might have become one of the hottest night spots in town, but as it was, it wasn’t giving Hefner “a proper return on his investment,” said Richard S. Rosenzweig, executive vice president, office of the chairman, Playboy Enterprises. The property went for “less than $25 million and more than $1.50,” he added impishly.

A spokesman for Cedars said that no decision has been made about when work will start to convert the property to medical use.

Great news for Hollywood--that announcement of the $150-million mixed-use project to be developed around Mann’s Chinese Theatre--but one thing was missing: actors’ housing--actually, housing for entertainment professionals. (It’s been expanded since several trade unions first had the idea.)

“I never heard any interest in housing from the developer or the architect,” Gilda Haas of Councilman Mike Woo’s office said, “but we, (Councilman) Joel Wachs’ office and Jim Wood (chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency) are totally in support of the idea, which would be a really good Hollywood project and a way to connect the labor force in the community to a valued industry.”


Before Woo was elected last June, actors’ housing was mentioned for the site around Mann’s Chinese Theatre and some other places nearby in student proposals presented to the unions, Woo and other interested people.

So what’s happening to the unions’ plan to get the much-needed new housing for their members near or in Hollywood?

Howard Caine, president of a consortium of entertainment unions, said, “We’re in the process of receiving a redevelopment agency grant of $50,000 to select a site, find a developer, and establish eligibility and need. And we’re in the process of signing an agreement with a developer to negotiate exclusively for 90 days on a site at the west end of Hollywood. We also have a site proposed by the CRA in North Hollywood.” The first phase would consist of 50 units.

Pam Portillo, executive director of the consortium--known (not surprisingly) as HEP Inc. (Housing for Entertainment Professionals), hopes to announce a solid commitment in about six months.