Owlwood, an estate with a rich history in Holmby Hills, sells for $88 million

An overview of the landscaped grounds and home exterior.
Built in 1936, the 10-acre estate has boasted several notable owners over the years including actor Tony Curtis and pop duo Sonny and Cher.
(The Viewpoint Collection)

Southern California’s historic year of luxury real estate ended with a bang just before Christmas, as Owlwood — a Holmby Hills mansion that once listed for $180 million — sold for $88 million.

The massive off-market deal, which sold as three separate parcels, closed Dec. 23, The Times has confirmed. It was Los Angeles County’s third-priciest residential real estate transaction of 2020 behind Jeff Bezos’ $165-million purchase and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s $125-million sale, both of which took place in Beverly Hills.

Records reveal the buyer was Calch Urban Investments, a newly registered limited liability company based in Illinois. The owner behind the LLC remains unclear.

Spanning 10 acres just down the street from the Playboy Mansion, the famed compound has a storied past with a notable architect, celebrity residents and a recent owner indicted in a Ponzi scheme. It centers on a 12,000-square-foot Italian Revival-style mansion designed in 1936 by Robert D. Farquhar, an L.A. architect whose other projects included the Pentagon, Beverly Hills High School and the California Club.


A series of high-profile players owned the home in the following decades including 20th Century-Fox Chairman Joseph Schenck, oil tycoon William Keck and Hotel Bel-Air founder Joseph Drown. Actor Tony Curtis lived there in the ‘60s, and he sold it to pop duo Sonny and Cher in the ‘70s.

In 2009, it was acquired by a more controversial figure: Robert Shapiro, a real estate developer who a decade later was sentenced to 25 years in prison for running a $1.3-billion Ponzi scheme. He paid $90 million for the property through his firm, Woodbridge Group of Companies, and tried to double his money in 2017, listing it for $180 million before trimming the price a year later to $115 million after Woodbridge filed for bankruptcy. The estate was sold as part of the bankruptcy agreement.

At the front of the estate, a driveway wraps around a spacious lawn anchored by a fountain. Two structures occupy the regal grounds: a main house topped by clay tile and an ivy-clad guesthouse. They combine for nine bedrooms and 10 bathrooms.

Grand public spaces with period details fill out the main house. There’s a dramatic foyer, a wood-paneled living room, an oval sun room and a primary suite with a fireplace, lounge, spa bathroom and ornate moldings. Rolling lawns and mature landscaping are found outside, descending to a sunken tennis court and a swimming pool adjoined by a veranda.

Tomer Fridman, Sally Forster Jones and Tyrone McKillen of Compass, along with Drew Fenton of Hilton & Hyland, held the listing.