Estate Matches Her Media Empire


Oprah Winfrey has closed escrow on a 42-acre Montecito estate for an estimated $50 million, according to local real estate and other sources.

The sale is one of the highest for a private home in the state and the country. It was surpassed in Southern California last year only by the purchase of Castle & Cook Chief Executive David Murdock’s Bel-Air home by Global Crossing chief Gary Winnick; however, that deal, valued from $60 million to $95 million, also involved a land trade.

The talk-show host bought the property, which has ocean and mountain views, from a Southern California industrialist and his wife who have been living in the 2,000-square-foot stone gatehouse on the property since it was rebuilt a year ago this month. They plan to live in the gatehouse until July.


The sellers had purchased the property for $14 million in 1998. The previous owners, who had bought the estate in 1935, had built an 8,000-square-foot, ranch-style house on the site in 1957. A 6,000-square-foot redwood house, used for guests, was built in 1912.

The current sellers undertook a major renovation of the houses and grounds with the help of Corinna Gordon Interior Design of Montecito and L.A. The designer spent nearly three years on the project, doing a lot of the architectural detailing and other work.

The sellers--supporters of such organizations as the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara Symphony and Santa Barbara Zoo--had planned to hold fund-raisers on the estate, which also has a barn, herb and flower gardens, an orchard, two ponds and a lake.

Plans changed when Chicago-based Winfrey came to town in April to shoot photos for her magazine, O. She fell in love with Santa Barbara and made an offer the owners couldn’t refuse.

The refurbishing wasn’t completed, but Winfrey wanted the property anyway. That suited the sellers, who were beginning to think that they didn’t need such a big home despite the fun they were having fixing it up.

They had rebuilt the gatehouse, changing its footprint and turning the outside from clapboard to stone. They had restored the redwood guest house, reconstructing the damaged foundation and redoing the interiors.


They were still working, however, on the main house built in the ‘50s. The sellers had retained the basement and a few walls but extended the house toward the ocean and mountains, adding a second story solely for the master suite and its sitting room, two baths and two 800-square-foot closets.

The 23,000-square-foot, Georgian-style house is still six months away from completion, and the outside area for the pool, tennis court, barbecue and patio is under construction.

But that didn’t faze Winfrey, a real estate maven who owns a penthouse overlooking Lake Michigan and a 160-acre farm in Indiana.

Winfrey put everything on hold except the stonework. She also is having plans drawn up for a new garage, sources said. The old garage is expected to be turned into a media room.

Winfrey, 47, is arguably the most influential and richest person on TV. She has won multiple Daytime Emmy Awards for her Chicago-based talk show, which she has owned and produced through Harpo Productions since 1988. She launched the magazine O a year ago.

She is also a founder of Oxygen Media Inc., a New York-based Internet and cable TV company that caters to women. Winfrey’s net worth has been reported as $800 million by Forbes magazine.

Jeffrey Tambor, who played the mayor of Whoville in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and portrayed the mentor of the artist (Ed Harris) in the movie “Pollock,” and his fiancee, Kasia Ostlun, have purchased a Pacific Palisades home for about its $1.5-million asking price. The couple plan to get married in October.

The house is Mediterranean in style and has five bedrooms in slightly more than 4,100 square feet. Built in 1995, the home has mountain, canyon and ocean views. The master suite has a fireplace, sauna and steam shower.

Tambor sold his former Sherman Oaks home in the low-to mid-$700,000 range. He and Ostlun started out looking for a rental in the Palisades but decided to buy.

Tambor, who played Garry Shandling’s sidekick on the HBO comedy series “The Larry Sanders Show” (1992-98), co-stars with Jill Clayburgh in the upcoming independent film “Never Again,” and Ostlun has a role in it. Tambor also stars in the upcoming movie “Get Well Soon.”

Lisa Denny and Penny Negrin of Prudential John Aaroe, Pacific Palisades, represented Tambor and Ostlun in buying.

Actor Brad Johnson, a former Marlboro Man who stars in Jerry Bruckheimer’s upcoming midseason TV series “OF: Special Ops Force,” and his wife, Laurie, have listed their 5-acre ranch in Agua Dulce, about 14 miles north of Granada Hills, at $1.1 million.

The couple bought an 890-acre ranch in New Mexico, which they plan to make their primary residence. They have five children with a sixth due in September.

The L.A.-area ranch includes a 4,000-square-foot main house with five bedrooms and three guest rooms; a barn with an attached apartment and an office; a workshop; rodeo-quality roping and riding arena; pool, spa, cabana and gym with sauna. The land also has pastures and more than 220 trees, including redwoods and pines.

Born on a ranch in Arizona, the actor, 41, was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1994 due to his role in the ’93 CBS series “Ned Blessing: The True Story of My Life.”

Johnson made recent guest-starring appearances on the series “C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation,” co-stars with Kirk Cameron and Chelsea Noble in “Left Behind: The Movie.” He also appeared in the films “Flight of the Intruder” (1990) and “Always” (1989).

Michael Rodgers and John Barker of Century 21 Pechtl & Associates, Granada Hills, have the listing.

Jim Long, founder of numerous broadcast and radio syndication companies as well as his Nashville/L.A.-based music publishing group OneMusic, and his wife and business partner, Deborah DeBerry Long, have purchased a Malibu home for about its $5.5-million asking price.

Now they plan to remodel the 6,600-square-foot house, built in 1984 on a bluff for a retired businessman who pioneered the development of ATMs.

The home includes a main house plus a two-bedroom guest apartment over an artist’s studio, recreation room, two-car garage and work room. The nearly 1-acre property has 170 feet of bluff frontage and deeded beach rights.

While remodeling, the Longs have leased a home formerly owned by actor Mel Gibson that is a short walk on the beach to their new property. Remodeling will begin in July with the help of local architects James Eserts and Denise Castro-Bran. David Rodin will be consulted on interiors.

“We already made what we hope are environmentally responsible design decisions for installing bamboo flooring and radiant and solar heating systems,” the entrepreneur said.

Last year, the Longs completed their remodel of the former Beverly Hills home of the late ventriloquist-puppeteer Shari Lewis and her husband, publisher-producer Jeremy Tarcher.

When finished, the house was “perfect” for them, the Longs said then. “But after spending weekends in Malibu since last fall, we fell in love with the lifestyle,” Jim Long says. They sold the Beverly Hills home for what he termed “somewhat less” than its $2.95-million asking price.

OneMusic provides music from its original music libraries for major movies (“Men of Honor,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr.) and TV (“Frasier,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Providence”). The company also owns one of the world’s largest classical music libraries and a major stake in the Gold Label, an entertainment and marketing firm created by the merger of Long’s record label and marketing firm with Pat Boone’s label of legendary recording artists.

Susan Saul and Chris Cortazzo of Coldwell Banker/Malibu represented the Longs in buying in Malibu; Tony and Dotty Giordano and Ellen Francisco of the same firm had the listing. Elizabeth and Victor Leon of Coldwell Banker, Beverly Hills, had the Beverly Hills listing.


To see previous columns on celebrity real estate transactions, visit