Mogul Moves Mountaintop


MERV GRIFFIN has sold his 157-acre Beverly Hills-area mountaintop for about $8.5 million, making it the highest price ever paid for a home site in Southern California, real estate sources say.

The buyer is Mark Hughes, 41, founder, chairman and president of Century City-based Herbalife International, distributor of personal and skin-care products.

Hughes plans to build a home on the property for himself, his actress wife, Suzan, and their son, Alexander, 5. Most of the land is expected to be preserved as a natural habitat.

Griffin had been trying to sell the property, off and on, for eight years. It was originally on the market in 1989, just before the recession, at $25 million. Its last asking price was $11 million.


The entertainer-game show creator-entrepreneur had planned to build a 58,000-square-foot house for himself on the property but decided to sell it after grading 14 acres. He also had gotten a tentative tract map approved to develop six homes on the land. If that subdivision had gone forward, Griffin would have donated 104 acres to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. As it turned out, Griffin had no time to develop any of the houses.

His purchase of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in 1987, the same year he bought the 157-acre site from the sister of the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran, and the process of his acquiring Resorts International in Atlantic City kept him busy. He already had homes in La Quinta and Carmel.

Griffin, 71, still owns a couple of houses, the Beverly Hilton and a number of hotels in other states, including the Wickenburg Inn near Phoenix, which he purchased last year. He also owns several production companies, has an interest in an Atlantic City gambling company and regularly hosts a variety of charity events.

Hughes and his family live in Grayhall, a Beverly Hills mansion built in 1909. Grayhall was a home of actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr. before he married actress Mary Pickford, and it was owned more recently by actor George Hamilton. The house was purchased by Hughes in 1992 in a real estate trade valued at a bit more than $20 million.


Hughes, who dropped out of school after the ninth grade, started Herbalife in 1980. Within five years, his company reported grossing $427 million a year. Today, it claims to be a $1.2-billion global enterprise.

Hughes was represented in the land purchase by Rick Hilton of Hilton & Hyland; Griffin was represented by Steve Lewis of Nourmand & Associates.


JULIAN McMAHON, who plays Det. John Grant on the NBC mystery series “The Profiler,” has purchased a Hollywood Hills home for close to its asking price of $799,000, industry sources say.

McMahon, 28, previously appeared as Ian, resident Aussie, in the soap opera “Another World.” An Australian, he is the son of a former Australian prime minister, the late Sir William McMahon, and socialite Lady Sonia McMahon.

His new home, built in the ‘60s, is gated and has two master suites in its 3,400 square feet, a pool, pool house and 360-degree city views. From his house, he can see the ocean and the Hollywood sign.

The house had been listed by Ron Holliman and Brent Watson of the Prudential-Jon Douglas Co., Beverly Hills. McMahon was represented by Barbara Robinson and Jeff Hall of John Aaroe & Associates, Beverly Hills.



Talent manager-movie producer CHUCK BINDER and his wife, psychologist Lori O’Brien-Binder, have listed their Beverly Hills area home of 10 years at $2.75 million.

“We’re horse lovers and want a property where we can have horses at home. My wife rides seven days a week,” he said.

Binder represents such stars as Sharon Stone, Matt LeBlanc, Robert Wagner, Steve Guttenberg and Daryl Hannah. He was an executive producer of “Diabolique,” the 1996 remake of the classic 1955 French thriller “Last Dance” and “The Specialist” (1994).

Built in 1937 but recently remodeled, the three-bedroom, five-bath house has a sunroom with a brick floor, a den with a wet bar, a pool, spa and guest house.

Joe Babajian and Kyle Grasso of Fred Sands Estates, Beverly Hills, have the listing.


BERTRAM VAN MUNSTER, producer of the long-running syndicated TV show “Cops,” has purchased a Beverly Hills area home for $1.3 million and put his Sherman Oaks house on the market at about $650,000, sources have said.

Van Munster, who started producing the cinema verite series in 1989, bought a 4,000-square-foot house with a pool and city-to-ocean views. He listed a four-edroom, 2,800-square-foot-plus house with a pool and canyon views.


Paul Bilski and Michele Kovacs of Fred Sands Realtors in Sherman Oaks represented Van Munster in his purchase and share his listing.


A Newport Beach home owned once by the Irvine family and completely rehabbed and recently expanded from 12,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet has been listed at $16.8 million.

The house sits on an acre with a view of Newport Harbor and Balboa. It has three kitchens, a screening room and underground parking for at least eight cars.

The site belonged to the Irvine Co. and was willed to Myford Irvine, grandson of James Irvine Sr., who had purchased 110,000 acres of ranch land in Southern California by 1876. Myford Irvine was president of the Irvine Co. when he died in 1959, three months before the house was completed.

Geneva “Gene” and Donald Washburn, then head of the 7-Up Bottling Co. of Los Angeles, bought the property in 1960 and, during the next few years, hosted many parties there with such guests as Ronald Reagan, before he became president.

The current owners, a couple from the Midwest, bought the property about eight years ago. He had sold his businesses, and they had purchased the Irvine-Washburn house to redo as a simple remodel. It took them six years. They moved into the house a couple of years ago.

“Now they’re downsizing,” said Linda Taglianetti, who has the listing at the Prudential-Jon Douglas Co., Corona del Mar. “They bought two condos in L.A., so they can just lock the door and go.”