Playboy Mansion to sell for record $105 million, about half its asking price
It’s the end of an era for the storied Playboy Mansion, the erotic adult playground that became as famous as its legendary owner.
Six months after it was put up for sale with a whopping $200-million sticker price, Hugh Hefner’s mansion has found a buyer at roughly half that amount: $105 million, according to sources not authorized to comment publicly on the sale.
Daren Metropoulos, the son of billionaire investor C. Dean Metropoulos, is in contract to buy Hef’s longtime Holmby Hills residence.
A stagnant real estate market for ultra-high-end homes didn’t appear to hurt the Playboy Mansion: A completed deal would be the biggest home sale ever recorded in Los Angeles County. Despite the $200-million figure, real estate agents didn’t expect the home to fetch anywhere near that; the price was likely designed to grab headlines and drum up interest.
The current county record was set two years ago when the Westside manor known as Fleur de Lys sold for $88.3 million, or $102 million if one counts the furnishings and artwork.
In a city loaded with famous residences, the Playboy Mansion achieved a singular notoriety.
Filled with lore, and a point of envy for those who couldn’t score access, the home played host to countless pool parties, extravagant soirees and even a few Hollywood weddings over the years -- as well as a revolving door of Hefner’s live-in girlfriends.
“It was such a lifestyle,” Pamela Anderson, who graced the magazine’s cover 14 times, said on “The Wendy Williams Show.” “Playboy Mansion was like my university. It was full of intellectuals, sex, rock and roll, art, all the important stuff.”
She also revealed in the final nude issue of Playboy: “I’m sure one of my sons was conceived there.”
Not surprisingly, a cast of characters quickly queued up once word broke that the property was for sale.
Adult entertainment mogul and publisher Larry Flynt, whose company owns Hustler magazine, was among the first in line, reportedly with plans to buy it and kick his old rival out.
Next was Jeff Beacher, creator and chief of the burlesque nightclub company Beacher’s Madhouse, who put out a press release announcing that he too would be putting in an offer.
Rumors of Charlie Sheen’s interest eventually spun the scene into carnival-like overdrive; the lothario actor was a frequent visitor to the grounds.
In the end, though, it was the little-known Metropoulos, a 32-year-old business tycoon with a penchant for flipping floundering brands, who will soon take ownership.
An executive at his father’s private-equity firm, Metropoulos & Co., Metropoulos helped breathe new life into brands such as Perrier Jouët Champagne, Ghirardelli Chocolate and the Bumble Bee tuna brand.
Two years ago, Metropoulos & Co. sold Los Angeles-based Pabst Brewing Co. for more than $700 million in cash; that was $550 million more than what it paid for it in 2010. The company, along with Apollo Management Group, bought Twinkies, Ho Hos and other Hostess brands three years ago.
Hefner won’t be packing his bags, though.
The 89-year-old Playboy founder, who has worked and made his home at the mansion for decades, will be allowed to remain in residence for the remainder of his life – a condition of the sale. Metropoulos reportedly plans to combine the estate with a neighboring property that he bought from Hefner in 2009 for $18 million.
A major work of architect Arthur R. Kelly, the stone-lined Gothic Tudor-style home was originally built for department store scion Arthur Letts Jr. in 1927. Playboy acquired the mansion of more than five acres in 1971 for around $1.1 million, which at the time made it among the priciest transactions in L.A. history.
In recent years, the mansion was in the public eye more thanks to the E! reality show “The Girls Next Door,” which put a spotlight on the various goings-on at the mansion. It was also featured in shows including “Sex and the City,” “Entourage,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Within the 29-room house are chef’s and catering kitchens, a game room, a wine cellar and a screening room with a built-in pipe organ. The 20,000-square-foot floor plan also includes 12 bedrooms including a master suite spanning two floors.
Adding to its legend, the estate is also among a select number of L.A. homes to have a zoo license.
Park-like grounds feature a menagerie of aviaries and arboretums holding a collection of exotic birds and monkeys. Albino peacocks and other animals are known to roam freely through rolling lawns and formal gardens.
A gymnasium, a tennis court, an orchard and the infamous swimming pool and swim-in grotto also lie within the property. There’s also a four-bedroom guest house.
The sale of the mansion marks the latest sea change for the legendary Playboy brand. In the winter, the magazine eliminated fully nude photos from its pages, blaming the 24/7 Internet porn culture for diminishing the need for the glossy centerfolds that a generation of men -- and their sons -- furtively stashed underneath their beds.
Despite the record sales figure, the ultra-high-end market has stagnated in the last year, due in large part to international buyers pulling back amid economic turmoil back home and a strong U.S. dollar.
In the first quarter of 2016, sales over $10 million were essentially flat, up one deal to 17, compared with a year earlier, according to the California Assn. of Realtors. In the fourth quarter, $10-million plus deals were also basically unchanged, dipping to 25 from 26 a year earlier.
The $20 million-and-up market has seen an even greater chill, according to the Multiple Listing Service. Since January, there have been fewer than 10 sales of $20 million and none above $40 million. Last year, there were six sales of $44 million or more, three of which eclipsed the $50-million mark.
Still, it’s not for a lack of trying. In Los Angeles County, there are more than two dozen homes for sale at or above $30 million. Of those, two Westside estates currently list for $150 million and $135 million.
Michael Nourmand, president of luxury brokerage Nourmand & Associates Realtors in Los Angeles, doesn’t think the record Playboy deal signals a major turnaround.
“The Playboy Mansion is like a piece of art or landmark sale rather than just an expensive home sale,” he said.
Bret Parsons, architectural division director for Coldwell Banker Southern California, who was also not involved in the transaction, said the huge sale price was due to its land value and because “the house is extraordinary, architecturally.”
Gary Gold and Drew Fenton of Hilton & Hyland, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, and Mauricio Umansky of The Agency hold the listing for the mansion.
Times staff writer Andrew Khouri contributed to this report.
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