Fleur de Lys on L.A.'s Westside has changed hands for $102 million, making it the highest-priced home sale ever recorded in L.A. County. Three billionaires engaged in a bidding war for the nearly five-acre trophy estate, the winner closing in 10 days in an all-cash deal that included antique furnishings.
The 50,000-square-foot residence was sold by socialite Suzanne Saperstein, who had the mansion custom built in 2002 with her then husband, Metro Networks founder David Saperstein. They divorced three years after work was finished, and she first listed property in 2007 just as the Great Recession was taking hold.
[Updated at 1:20 p.m. PST March 31: The buyer of Fleur de Lys was initially identified as a French billionaire, but a copy of the grant deed obtained by The Times shows the taxes will be mailed to Milken Institute in Santa Monica. The nonpartisan think tank is chaired by businessman, philanthropist and onetime "junk bond king" Michael Milken. ]
[Updated at 2:32 p.m. PST March 31: The taxes go to the law firm of Maron & Sandler also located at the Milken Institute. Richard Sandler has represented Milken in the past. A representative for Milken denied that Milken or the Milken Institute purchased the property, which was taken in the name of a limited liability company.]
The sale does not top the U.S. record set last year when a mansion on nine acres in the Northern California community of Woodside went for $117.5 million. That deal's buyer and seller were business partners and may have included other considerations.
The transaction does beats the long-held local record established in 2000 when Dole Food Co. billionaire David Murdock sold a Bel-Air property to financial executive Gary Winnick in a $94-million deal that involved a parcel of land in trade.
This affluent Westside stretch of Holmby Hills, Bel-Air and Beverly Hills known as the Platinum Triangle for its wealth and top-dollar estate properties was ripe for a home sale of such magnitude.
The ranks of the ultra-wealthy continue to grow, and L.A. prices seems like bargains compared with other major cities -- particularly to foreign buyers, real estate experts say. And there are only so many mega-estates to choose from.
"This is a very thin market, in a similar vein to an art market," said economist Gary Painter, director of research for USC's Lusk Center for Real Estate. "There's only one of that type."
Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency, who represented Saperstein in the sale, echoed that sentiment. "This is one of the greatest estates in Los Angeles, if not the country."
Completed in 2002, the compound stretching between Carolwood and Angelo drives was years in the making. Purchases of the adjacent parcels that make up the estate took five years and an additional six years were spent in various stages of construction, from groundbreaking to fruition.
Wrought-iron gates open to a 600-foot-long tree-lined driveway that leads to a cobblestone courtyard in front of the house. Just inside the front door is a marbled-floored two-story entry hall topped by a gold-leaf paneled ceiling. A pair of staircases lead upstairs, and a doorway flanked by columns looks out to the back yard and gardens.
Inspired by Vaux-le-Vicomte, a palace outside Paris, the mansion has also been likened to miniature Versailles surrounded by formal gardens, mature trees and a soccer-field size expanse of lawn. The 4.6 acres of grounds include two motor courts, a swimming pool and spa complex and a tennis court.
Imported limestone blocks enclose a massive steel frame, set on rollers in the foundation, to safeguard the structure in an earthquake. Interior spaces include a ballroom for parties of 500, a two-story wood paneled library, a movie theater, a music room, a dozen bedrooms and 15 bathrooms.
Services spaces include a commercial kitchen, a room for the cutlery and dishes, a butler's pantry, a staff dining room, staff offices and a security center.
The 3,000-square-foot wine cellar and tasting room is larger than most American houses, as is the manager's house.
Those who have never stepped foot in the palatial estate may have had an unknowing glimpse on television or at the movies. Parts of it were used for the ABC drama "Big Shots" (2007-08), Audi commercials during the 2008 Super Bowl, and the 2011 film "The Green Hornet."
Others were able to purchase a piece of the estate two years ago when Sotheby's auctioned some of Saperstein's antique furniture. The more than $8 million in sales was topped by a 21-light German chandelier from the 1700s that brought about $602,500.
Although the neighborhood containing Fleur de Lys is generally accepted as Holmby Hills, the L.A. Times Mapping Database considers it to be Beverly Crest.
Fred Bernstein of Westside Estate Agency represented the buyer, who beat out billionaires from England and China.