Yvonne Niami, the wife of mega-mansion builder Nile Niami of Skyline Development Inc., filed for divorce last month, a decision that could have significant implications for the developer’s real estate holdings, The Real Deal has learned.
The couple was married for more than 18 years before separating two years ago, according to the divorce filing, which cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split.
While it’s unclear exactly what the impact of the divorce might have on Niami’s real estate portfolio, sources speculated that it could throw the ownership of the infamous $500 million mansion he is developing in Bel Air into question.
How the couple’s assets will be divided — particularly Niami’s real estate — will depend on the existence of a prenuptial agreement, said Daniel Jaffe of the Beverly Hills family law firm Jaffe and Clemens, who has represented celebrities such as Marc Anthony in his divorce from Jennifer Lopez.
“I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a prenuptial agreement,” he said. “That completely changes things.”
It’s possible Niami could claim the spec mansion is off-limits if the project was developed while the two were separated, Jaffe said. However, even the planning stages of a project could make it an asset that could be divided in a divorce, Jaffe said.
“I’m sure this project took a long time to put together,” he said.
News reports of Niami’s mega-project at 944 Airole Way first appeared in 2013, but at the time the planned development was a mere 85,000 square feet.
The now 104,000-square-foot property – almost twice the size of the White House – is slated to have five swimming pools, a casino, a nightclub with a VIP area, a lounge with walls made of jellyfish tanks and a cigar room.
Drew Fenton of Hilton and Hyland is the listing agent for the mansion. Niami reportedly aims to sell it for $500 million, though the property has not officially hit the market.
If it does list at that price, it will beat Bruce Makowsky’s $250 million Bel Air development for the title of most expensive home listed in the U.S.
Anything owned before marriage typically cannot be divided after marriage, in accordance with the definitions of a “separate property” in California’s marital property laws, said Scott Altman, professor of property and family law at USC Gould School of Law.
“It’s possible that she gained an interest [in Niami’s business] during the course of marriage,” Altman said. “But the main way she would gain that interest is if he didn’t pay himself an adequate salary. I’d guess he probably did and they lived well.”
Yvonne Niami is the founder of the charitable clothing label n:Philanthropy.
She launched the business in 2014 after leaving her post as an interior designer at Skyline, according to an interview with Hamptons magazine. It is unknown, however, whether she had a stake in the company.
She also owns a tequila company called VIVA XXXII, which gives a percentage of its proceeds to animal abuse prevention.
In November, she purchased an eight-bedroom,11,500-square foot home in Bel Air for $16.2 million, The Real Deal reported.
She does not have an attorney and is representing herself, according to filings.
Yvonne and Nile Niami did not return requests for comment.