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Trophy villas, futuristic beach houses: Southern California’s top 2021 mansion sales (so far)

A white house with grass in front and ocean shore beyond it.
The Malibu beach house of billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad was designed by Richard Meier, the architect who designed the Getty Center.
(Berlyn Photography)

Southern California’s real estate market has been historically hot this year. Whether it’s a 700-square-foot bungalow or 10,000-square-foot mansion, a shortage of housing stock has caused bidding wars in every corner of the market.

The first six months of 2021 saw the ultra-rich buying and selling luxury homes at a brisk pace across the region with celebrities, media moguls and business magnates all getting in on the action. Nine estates closed for north of $30 million, which is one more compared with the same stretch last year. Here are the top sales this year.

1. Barron Hilton’s Bel-Air estate — $61.5 million

While brand new spec mansions flood the market with promises of glitz, glamour and gadgets, Barron Hilton’s Bel-Air estate showed that homes with history are still prized in the modern market. The hotel mogul lived in the storied mansion for more than half a century until his death in 2019, and in May, it traded hands for $61.5 million.

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The Georgian-style showplace was built in 1936 by architect-to-the-stars Paul R. Williams, whose other clients included Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. He designed this one for Jay Paley, a businessman and film producer from the famed Paley family, which founded CBS.

It spans 15,000 square feet with 13 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms and grand public spaces complete with antique chandeliers, paneled walls and ornate fireplaces. The biggest highlight comes out back, where a famous Moderne-inspired pool depicts the 12 signs of the Zodiac with blue, gold and yellow tiles.

The median home sales price hit a record $667,000 last month, but there are signs of a slowdown: One index of national home buyer demand is down 14% from an April peak.

2. Eli Broad’s Malibu beach house — $51.65 million

If Hilton’s house represents the L.A. of old, a relic of Hollywood’s illustrious past, Eli Broad’s futuristic beach house showcases how architecture has evolved in the 21st century.

Erected in 2002 by Richard Meier, the sleek, curvaceous abode resembles a spaceship as much as a place to live. It’s wrapped in white aluminum panels and frosted glass, a design palette that recalls one of Meier’s other iconic works — the Getty Center a few miles away in Brentwood.

Broad commissioned the home in the late 1990s and owned it until his death earlier this year. He’d been trying to get it off his hands for the last two years, originally listing it for $75 million before it finally sold for $51.65 million two months after he died.

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3. Villa Firenze — $51 million

Beverly Park saw perhaps the year’s most bittersweet sale so far. When this Italian-inspired mansion called Villa Firenze sold at auction for $51 million, it became the priciest home to ever be auctioned off. But the final sum was more than $100 million shy of the original price tag of $165 million.

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It was sold by Hungarian billionaire Steven Udvar-Hazy, the executive chairman of Air Lease Corp. who made his fortune in the airplane leasing industry. He bought the three-parcel property in 1993, and architect William Hablinski finished the mega-mansion five years later.

Spanning 10 acres, the gated estate offers a world of its own. There’s a lush courtyard under 40-foot palm trees, resort-style pool, tennis court, pool house and guesthouse. At the center of it all sits a 28,000-square-foot home filled with floors of marble, brick and stone.

Sunset Marquis hotel owner George Rosenthal is asking $38 million for his 180-acre retreat in Malibu complete with a 12,000-square-foot hacienda and vineyard.

4. Shane Smith’s Pacific Palisades retreat — $48.67 million

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Shane Smith, the flashy entrepreneur behind Vice Media, made history when he sold his leafy Pacific Palisades retreat for $48.67 million. It was the most expensive deal in the neighborhood’s history, crushing the previous record set by entertainment mogul Michael King when his scenic estate sold for $33.85 million in 2018.

Smith made a fortune on the deal after paying $23 million for the property in 2015. Before him, the palm-topped compound belonged to director Henry Jaglom and members of Fleetwood Mac. It also appeared in HBO’s “Entourage” and the 1984 film “Beverly Hills Cop.”

A recent renovation brought new life to the 1930s home dubbed Villa Ruchello, and the 3.35-acre grounds also include a 74-foot swimming pool, Japanese-style cedar soaking tub, private well and pizza oven among lawns, gardens and citrus groves.

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5. Ellen DeGeneres’ Beverly Hills home — $47 million

It wouldn’t be a true top sales list without Ellen DeGeneres making an appearance. California’s most prolific celebrity home flipper and her wife, actress Portia de Rossi, struck again in April, unloading a pedigreed Beverly Hills home for $47 million two years after buying it from Maroon 5’s Adam Levine for $42.5 million.

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Built in 1933, it spans 10,400 square feet with a two-story foyer, 50-foot-long living room, paneled library, gym and movie theater with a bar. Out back, a handful of romantic patios expand to an oval-shaped swimming pool and a tennis court.

The ivy-covered abode just above Sunset Boulevard was previously owned by tennis star Pete Sampras and “Will & Grace” creator Max Mutchnick.

As she tries to sell her Encino home, Grammy-winning singer Kelly Clarkson just paid $5.445 million for a Colonial-style spot in nearby Toluca Lake.

6. Brentwood spec mansion — $44 million

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The amenity-loaded mansion includes two pools, a cannabis garden and Kobe Bryant-themed basketball court.
(Simon Berlyn and Drone Hub Media)

One of the many amenity-loaded mansions vying for buyers in a crowded spec market, this property caught the eye of hedge fund manager Jeffrey Feinberg with a laundry list of goodies — so much so that he dropped $44 million on the toy-filled home.

There’s a 1,000-gallon aquarium, 30-foot garden wall, media lounge with nine TVs, infinity-edge swimming pool outside, another pool inside, putting green, cabana, pizza oven, bar, barbershop, auto gallery, movie theater and gym with a sports simulation room.

The 30,000 square feet of exterior living space also features a rooftop cannabis garden and a Kobe Bryant-themed basketball court colored purple and yellow.

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7. Jack Rimokh’s Holmby Hills compound — $42.85 million

A mansion is shown surrounded by trees.
The nearly 20,000-square-foot spread is filled with limestone floors, Venetian plaster walls, brick barrel ceilings.
(Simon Berlyn and Jim Bartsch)

The final home to cross the $40-million threshold belonged to retail executive Jack Rimokh, who serves as chief executive of handbag company Signal Brands. He bagged $42.85 million for his Mediterranean-style spread in April, wrapping up a yearlong effort that saw him first list the home for $58.75 million.

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He didn’t quite get his asking price but still nearly doubled his money compared with when he bought it from W. Howard Lester, the late former head of cookware giant Williams-Sonoma, for $23 million in 2012.

Accessed by a long driveway lined with olive trees, the nearly 20,000-square-foot spread is filled with limestone floors, Venetian plaster walls, brick-barrel ceilings and colonnades inspired by 14th-century Italian gothic architecture. A bridge connects the home to a two-story guesthouse.

Take a look at five homes in five different Los Angeles communities on the market for around $500,000.

8. Nile Niami’s Bel-Air spec house — $36 million

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An architectural staircase swirls through the two-story floor plan, leading to spaces such as a movie theater and gym.
An architectural staircase swirls through the two-story floor plan, leading to spaces such as a movie theater, gym and ballroom.
(Christopher Amitrano)

Nile Niami’s spec development sales aren’t always smooth (he currently faces possible foreclosure over a $110-million debt on his 100,000-square-foot mega-mansion “The One”), but he’s able to swing a sale every once in a while.

In April, he found a buyer for his French-style manor overlooking the fairways of Bel-Air Country Club, selling the home to Network Capital CEO Tri Nguyen for $36 million. That’s $29 million short of what he was originally asking.

An architectural staircase swirls through the two-story floor plan, leading to black-and-white spaces such as a movie theater, gym, ballroom and black marble bar.

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The One, a 100,000-square-foot mega-mansion in Bel-Air, may be headed for foreclosure as developer Nile Niami owes more than $110 million in outstanding loans.

9. Jimmy Stewart’s former Beverly Hills villa — $35.2 million

This hallowed property in Beverly Hills housed Jimmy Stewart, the Oscar-winning actor from “Rear Window” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” for nearly half a century. The house itself was demolished shortly after Stewart’s death in 1997, and in its place rose an Italian villa of more than 15,000 square feet that traded hands in February for $35.2 million.

The seller was Lion Capital co-founder Lyndon Lea, who took a loss on the property after buying it for $36 million in 2015. Records identify the buyer as businessman Frank Zarabi, who made his fortune in the apparel industry as CEO of FAM Brands.

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A fitting home for a fashion mogul, the stylish house is dressed in millwork, crown molding, coffered ceilings, silk carpets, antique fireplaces and floors of marble and walnut. In addition to nine bedrooms and 12 bathrooms, there’s a 1,000-bottle wine cellar, tasting room, movie theater, gym and sauna.


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