Tech tycoons go on mansion-buying binge near ‘Silicon Beach’


Maybe the attraction is Silicon Beach, the swath of Los Angeles that is home to so many tech start-ups. Or maybe it’s just the beach. Either way, Northern California technology titans and wannabes increasingly are sinking money into trophy homes from the Hollywood Hills to the beach in a kind of Silicon Valley south.

Making tsunami-like waves so far this year are three Westside transactions:

•Billionaire venture capitalist and hedge fund manager Peter Thiel cherry-picked a house in the Hollywood Hills this spring for $11.5 million. The early Facebook Inc. investor and PayPal co-founder bought a 6,000-square-foot view house with a swimming pool on 1.25 acres.

•Ted Waitt, co-founder of computer maker Gateway Inc., picked up a nearly 11,500-square-foot mansion in Bel-Air this summer for $14 million. The six-bedroom Mediterranean sits on a promontory of more than an acre with a guesthouse and views from downtown to the ocean.

•Last month, 31-year-old twin entrepreneurs Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss bought a newly built contemporary house in Hollywood Hills West for $18 million. That’s quite a chunk of their $65-million cash-and-stock settlement from 2008 over claims that Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea to create Facebook. Some real estate agents believe they overpaid — to the delight of neighbors with properties for sale.

Oracle Corp. founder and Chief Executive Larry Ellison already owns several mansions on Malibu’s exclusive Carbon Beach, and moneyed tech types are said to be circling other properties.

The purchases could be a sign that the burgeoning tech scene in the L.A. area is picking up speed. Many tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from Silicon Valley have moved to L.A. in recent months or bought second properties in the area, saying they saw opportunities in new business ventures, especially ones that bridge technology and entertainment.

But it’s not just luxury and second-home tech buyers making a splash in the local market.

Google Inc. opened a campus in Venice, and all the people associated with it are coming, said Sandra Miller, principal broker at Engel & Volkers in Santa Monica. “The Westside, Santa Monica and Venice are on fire right now.”

With an influx of tech workers and those from supporting industries, there is very little housing inventory in all price ranges, Miller said. “It’s as hot as it’s been since the crash with multiple offers on almost everything.”

But the most wealthy buyers can be choosers.

“The tech guys just want what they want,” Miller said.

Perhaps that’s why the Winklevoss brothers paid so much for their tricked-out party pad.

Times staff writer Andrea Chang contributed to this report.