Developer Nile Niami floats last-ditch plan to retain control of ‘The One’ mega-mansion

An aerial view of the mansion known as "The One."
The mega-mansion known as “The One” occupies a Bel-Air hillside.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The developer of the mega-mansion known as “The One” is mounting a last-ditch plan to retain ownership of the Bel-Air home that was won at auction this month for $141 million by the founder of Fashion Nova, the L.A.-area fast-fashion company.

Nile Niami’s Skyline Development announced it is looking for new investors to raise $250 million for a bid prior to a Friday hearing during which a Bankruptcy Court judge will consider whether to approve the bid by Fashion Nova’s Richard Saghian. Several creditors filed objections to the sale Tuesday, citing the low price.

The developer, who considers the 105,000-square-foot marble-and-glass home his magnum opus, is asking prospective investors to provide proof of funds and a minimum $100,000 investment by 2 p.m. Wednesday. He is promising the investors a share of the net profit of any profit-making venture held at the home, including events or short-term rentals, according to a news release issued late Monday.

Niami first envisioned selling the home for $500 million several years ago but received no takers. The auction was considered a disappointment since The One sold for less than half its $295-million list price. It also was well under the California record set by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who purchased a Malibu estate for $177 million in October.

After years of construction, a foreclosure and a bankruptcy, the Bel-Air mega-mansion known as The One has sold at auction.


The auction that ended March 3 drew only five bidders even though the auction site drew views from 170 countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy — and generated some 2,800 prospects in the days leading up to it. Some have suggested Russia’s invasion of Ukraine scared off foreign bidders who had toured the home in the weeks leading up to the auction — an argument also cited by several creditors Tuesday in court papers opposing the sale.

Niami has been seeking to retain control of The One ever since his limited liability company, Crestlloyd, defaulted on $106 million in construction loans in 2020 from L.A. billionaire lender Don Hankey.

The developer’s latest effort appears to have similarities to a plan he launched about a year ago in which he proposed turning The One into an event space for big-money boxing matches, concerts and other events. Hankey turned down the idea and foreclosed on the property, prompting an October bankruptcy filing that culminated in the March 3 auction.

In December, Niami made another public proposal to keep the house, this time calling for a partner to create a cryptocurrency called The One Coin that would be backed by the house and pay off its debts. However, that plan wasn’t successful either.

An aerial view of "The One."
Richard Saghian said he put in the highest bid on the Bel-Air property known as “The One.”
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The latest effort comes a few days after a Bankruptcy Court judge turned down a request by Saghian to immediately block any further bids on the house. Saghian’s attorneys made the request after Crestlloyd filed papers saying that if it received any further bids post-auction it would provide them to the court for consideration.

The One’s claimed debts total more than $250 million, meaning that most creditors will suffer complete losses if Saghian’s bid is approved by the court. Niami himself has a claim for $44.4 million that is said to stem from loans he has made to the project.

Attorneys for Niami filed legal papers in Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday objecting to the sale to Saghian on several grounds. The developer argued that the winning bid was well under a $228-million appraisal of the property in 2019 and was not in the best interest of creditors. He also argued that the auction was rushed and was held amid “the very height of uncertainty with respect to the Ukraine conflict and related sanctions.”

Other creditors also filed objections to approving Saghian’s bid on Tuesday, noting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including Inferno Investment, a Canadian investor that claims it is owed $24 million. It said in court papers that a “member of Saudi royalty” had been willing to pay $160 million but was turned down because the house was expected to go for more at auction, though that offer is no longer on the table because of “privacy concerns.” It also claimed that certain Russian businessmen sanctioned because of Russia’s offensive were “considered potential buyers,” and said there is a potential Chinese buyer who needs more time to prepare a bid.

Yogi Securities, the investment vehicle of Joseph Englanoff, an L.A. doctor and longtime Niami investor, said that the auction should have been delayed for several reasons, including the “tragic geopolitical events in Ukraine.”

“Not only did those events dissuade potential buyers, but they roiled financial markets as well, creating wild currency fluctuations, hardly an ideal situation for a high-end real estate sale,” wrote Englanoff, who noted he had lent Crestlloyd more than $30 million prior to the bankruptcy.

A spokesperson said Saghian, also Fashion Nova’s chief executive, had no comment on Niami’s latest plan to retain control of The One. However, in legal papers, Saghian is asking the court to approve the sale on March 18 and not consider other bids.

The idea was simple: Nile Niami would build and sell The One, the biggest and most extravagant new home in the country. Then things went sideways.

Shawn Bayliss, executive director of the Bel-Air Assn., which has already vowed to look into alleged construction defects and zoning violations at the home, said the homeowners group would oppose Niami’s plan to turn The One into an events space.

“Under no circumstances will the Bel-Air Assn. allow the home to be used for such commercial purposes in a single-family neighborhood,” he said.

Niami is offering a personal walk-through of the 944 Airole Way home Wednesday at 5:55 p.m. to all qualified investors.

Saghian is under legal obligation to close purchase of The One by March 21. Fashion Nova, which sells clothing lines by Cardi B and other rap stars, has grown rapidly over the last decade with its annual sales topping $1 billion, according to a source close to the company.

The ultra-modern marble-and-glass home was designed by Orange County architect Paul McClean, who also designed a home Saghian owns in the Hollywood Hills. But The One is far larger, with 21 bedrooms and 42 full bathrooms.

It includes a 4,000-square-foot guesthouse, a sky deck with cabanas, multiple pools, a private theater, a bowling alley, a billiard room, a salon and spa, and a nightclub — as well as 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, city skyline and San Gabriel Mountains.

A view of a sculpture inside The One.
Inside the Paul McClean-designed home is a sculpture called “Unity” on a rotating pedestal.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Bel-Air property may be the ultimate trophy home — or a giant white elephant clad in marble and glass. Billionaire bidders will pass judgment this week.