November 28, 2022

Real Estate newsletter: Feds try to seize a Holmby Hills mega-mansion

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter. It’s been a juicy week on the luxury beat, and our top stories have a little bit of everything: bribery allegations, celebrity, eye candy and a little dose of dangerous ambition.

First, alleged bribery. When a Holmby Hills mega-mansion a few houses down from the Playboy Mansion surfaced for sale at $63.5 million, it seemed like just another luxury listing. But federal prosecutors moved to seize the estate, alleging that its owner, a powerful Armenian politician, bought the 33,652-square-foot showplace with bribe money.

We spoke to the listing agent, who said despite all the drama, the home is still up for grabs.

Second, celebrity. The week’s biggest headlines centered on a pair of high-profile sales — one post-move and one posthumous.

The post-move deal was done by Adam Levine, who relocated into Rob Lowe’s $52-million Montecito mansion in March. A couple of months later, the Maroon 5 frontman unloaded his Pacific Palisades estate for $51 million, making it one of the priciest transactions in the history of the coastal community.

The posthumous deal was done by Alex Trebek — actually his widow, Jean — who sold the late “Jeopardy!” host’s longtime home in Studio City for $6.45 million. Trebek owned the place for nearly 30 years before his death in 2020, and the 1.5-acre spread is about a 30-minute drive from the Culver City studio where the game show is filmed.

Third, eye candy. The biggest “gotta-click-for-the-pictures-alone” story of the week belongs to Roger Vincent’s tour of Riot Games, the game developer responsible for the hugely popular “League of Legends.” The sprawling headquarters in West L.A. is a gamer’s paradise complete with a dining hall that’s free for employees, an auditorium built for esports competition and a coffee shop designed to resemble Bilgewater, a mythical port city from the hit game.

Lastly, dangerous ambition. The tale takes us back to 1998, when a landslide caused several homes to slide down a rain-soaked hillside. Houses were destroyed, condos were damaged, and now, a developer is looking to build a condo complex on the same site 24 years later. Needless to say, residents have concerns.

As always, while catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Feds look to seize mega-mansion

A French chateau-style mansion in Holmby Hills has 11 bedrooms, 27 bathrooms, and an asking price of $63.5 million.

(Hilton & Hyland
)

For sale: a French chateau-style mansion in one of Los Angeles’ most exclusive neighborhoods, Holmby Hills, complete with 11 bedrooms, 27 bathrooms and an asking price of $63.5 million.

At 33,652 square feet, it is among the largest homes on the market in Southern California, but there are a few hitches. For one, the interior is not yet finished. And, this week, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles moved to seize the estate, alleging that it was the fruit of corruption involving a powerful Armenian politician and his children.

The U.S. Department of Justice outlined in a court filing how the property on South Mapleton Drive — a few doors down from the Playboy Mansion — was purchased in 2011 for $14.4 million with bribes to the family of Gagik Khachatryan, Armenia’s former minister of finance, from a prominent businessman there.

Khachatryan, 66, his two sons and the businessman are all facing criminal charges in Armenia; the businessman is accused of providing more than $20 million in bribes.

Adam Levine fetches a fortune in the Palisades

A plant-covered roof is among the buildings shown on a property in Pacific Palisades.

The three-acre spread includes a ranch-style home, four-bedroom guesthouse, gym, yoga studio, swimming pool and chicken coop.

(Anthony Barcelo)

Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine quickly found a buyer in Pacific Palisades, selling his prized compound for $51 million. It’s Southern California’s third-priciest home sale this year and one of the biggest deals ever in the coastal community.

Levine and his wife, model Behati Prinsloo, bought the park-like estate from Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner for $31.95 million in 2018 — so the sale marks a huge profit for the power couple. Over the years, other high-profile owners included “To Kill a Mockingbird” actor Gregory Peck and Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer.

Spanning three acres, the compound features three structures: a 9,000-square-foot ranch-style home, a four-bedroom guesthouse and a separate building with a gym, office and yoga studio. Midcentury architect Cliff May designed the ranch, which mixes chic, modern design with luxury amenities, including a Dolby movie theater, game room, marble bar and walk-in refrigerator.

‘Jeopardy!’ host’s home trades hands

The front of a two-story home opens onto a vast lawn.

Alex Trebek’s Studio City estate includes five bedrooms, nine bathrooms and a handful of lavish living spaces.

(Compass)

Alex Trebek’s Studio City estate — which the late “Jeopardy!” host owned for three decades until his death in 2020 — has been sold for $6.45 million.

That’s exactly triple the price Trebek paid in 1991 when he bought it for $2.15 million, records show. His widow, Jean, listed the home for $7 million in January. His daughter, Emily Trebek of Compass, handled the sale.

The $6.45-million deal ranks as Studio City’s second-priciest home sale this year, and that tab should come as no surprise. The 99-year-old home spans 10,000 square feet and sits on 1.5 acres in Fryman Estates, one of the neighborhood’s most expensive pockets.

Inside are five bedrooms, nine bathrooms and a handful of lavish living spaces. There’s a two-story entry with dual staircases, a lounge under a dramatic rotunda and a gold-and-white wet bar.

Riot Games’ L.A. home is a gamer’s haven

Two men sit at a long bar inside a coffee shop in Riot Games' headquarters.

A coffee shop inside Riot Games’ expanded West L.A. headquarters is themed after a city in its “League of Legends” game.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Riot Games’ headquarters on Olympic Boulevard in West L.A. is nearly invisible to passersby, much of it a discreetly walled-off campus where security is tight to safeguard work that can mushroom far beyond gaming into the riches promised by TV and film, writes commercial real estate reporter Roger Vincent.

The Times got a rare look inside Riot Games’ newly expanded home base, which gives off distinct movie studio vibes. Here are the highlights.

  • Three theaters, two of which were previously used by legendary movie directors James Cameron and George Lucas.
  • A dining commissary called Noms that includes one of the biggest commercial kitchens on the Westside, serving a wide range of fare that changes daily and is provided free to the company’s 3,100 employees.
  • A re-creation of a Korean gaming hall called PC Bang, where employees can play multiplayer computer games such as “League of Legends” — without the hourly fee that gaming hall patrons must pay.
  • Giant statues of Annie and Tibbers, characters from “League of Legends.”

And much, much more.

Developer looks to build on site of devastating landslide

An aerial view of two homes in Laguna Niguel that collapsed down a hillside.

An aerial view of two homes on Via Estoril in Laguna Niguel that fell in 1998 when a rain-soaked hillside collapsed.

(Geraldine Wilkins–Kasinga / Los Angeles Times)

In 1998, after a winter of heavy rains, the hill below Via Estoril collapsed in Laguna Niguel. Several homes slid down, others were destroyed, and the condominiums below were heavily damaged, writes Hannah Fry.

Now, a developer is proposing new condominiums at the base of the hill. Improvements made since the landslide will prevent disaster from striking again, the project’s proponents say.

Residents, however, fear the new project will destabilize the hill and send it crashing down again.

What we’re reading

As the California real estate market jumps away from the middle class, the concept of paying-it-forward is making its way into housing. Fortune tells the story of a Silicon Valley woman whose house is worth more than $1 million but decided to sell it to a trust for half its market value as part of an “age-in-place” initiative that lets longtime owners stay in their homes while the trust deals with upkeep. When she dies, the prized property will be turned into affordable housing.

Enough words. If you made it this far, I offer an interactive map from MarketWatch. It tracks housing availability across the country and found that inventory in L.A. County has gone down 25% since 2017. The drop-off gets even more dramatic up and down the coast, with Orange County’s inventory falling 38%, Ventura County’s falling 45% and Santa Barbara County’s falling 56%.