The sale of Nicolas Cage’s onetime Bel-Air estate, which the actor lost to foreclosure this year, has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. There was hubris, bad taste and a dizzying fall from financial grace.
The closing scene played out this week when a new owner picked up the sprawling mansion for $10.5 million, a relative bargain for a trophy home that had been listed several years ago at more than three times that amount. The buyer was identified only as a limited liability company, a common cloaking device in high-profile real estate transactions.
The 1940 Tudor had failed to generate any bids in April when it was offered at the county courthouse steps in Pomona. Six loans totaling $18 million encumbered the house, which the actor had decorated in a style one local real estate agent dubbed “frat-house bordello.” Among personalized touches were garish room colors, three dozen bronze wall sconce holders made from a cast of the Oscar winner’s arm and hundreds of elaborately framed comic-book covers lining the walls.
But the 11,817-square-foot manse drew a steady stream of potential buyers and multiple offers after Citibank put it back on the market and reduced the price to $11.8 million.
The property entered escrow at the end of July and closed Tuesday.
“The reason it took so long is the IRS has what is called a right of redemption,” said listing agent Stephen Shapiro of Westside Estate Agency, who shared the listing with his son, Max Shapiro. “They had 120 days to decide if they wanted to buy it. You can’t close or get title insurance until that time is up.”
The all-cash buyer had been prepared to complete the transaction in five days.
“It was a fatigue-inducing deal,” Max Shapiro said. “I was showing it multiple times a day every single day for months. Who knew there were so many $10-million-plus buyers out there?”
In addition to showings, the agents had to check on the house regularly to make sure it was being properly maintained.
“Max was virtually living at that house,” Stephen Shapiro said. Jonas Heller of their office represented the buyer.
The sale reflects the continued price drop in the luxury market. A newer, slightly smaller house sold last year on the same street for $22 million, according to public records.
Although there had been speculation among local real estate agents that the house might be torn down, the new owner has hired a restoration architect to bring it back to flawless condition, according to Prudential California real estate agent Bret Parsons, the author of “Colcord Home,” a loving examination of the extensive work of architect Gerard R. Colcord.
“Over the summer I met with the successful buyer’s architect and it appears that the grand English Tudor will have a very happy ending,” Parsons said.
The Colcord-designed house sits on an acre, has a central tower, a custom wine cellar, a 35-seat home theater, six bedrooms, nine bathrooms and a swimming pool.
May Ormerod Harris, a major USC benefactor, commissioned the home; then it sold to banker Stanley Stalford in the early 1960s, Parsons said. Yuban-brand coffee heirs were the next inhabitants before the estate transferred to a series of celebrity owners: Dean Martin, Tom Jones and Cage.
Parsons toured the house after Cage lost it. Although the framed comic books were gone, there was evidence that each had been “hooked up securely to a sophisticated security system,” Parsons said. “Wires were coming out of the walls everywhere.”
Cage, 46, won an Oscar for his role in “Leaving Las Vegas.” Although Forbes put his 2009 earnings at $40 million, the actor has been plagued with financial and IRS problems and lost several homes to foreclosure.
Last year Cage sued his former business manager, Samuel J. Levin. The complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accused Levin of having “lined his pockets with several million dollars in business management fees while leading Cage down a path toward financial ruin.”
Levin filed a countersuit, describing Cage as setting off “on a spending binge of epic proportions” and stating that by July 2008, Cage owned “15 palatial homes around the world,” four yachts, an island in the Bahamas, a private Gulfstream jet and millions of dollars’ worth of art and jewelry.
Cage, who is filming in Romania, declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the sale.