“Yolanda,” LA’s “real estate yenta,” strikes deal with Variety parent company

Ex-Compass employee James McClain sells blog to Penske Media Corp.
By Natalie Hoberman | April 08, 2019 01:00PM

James McClain

It’s been a whirlwind year for James McClain, the former Compass employee and — formerly — hidden force behind celebrity real estate gossip blog, Yolanda’s Little Black Book.

Less than a year after being outed as “Yolanda,” McClain has struck a deal with Variety’s parent company, Penske Media Corporation, to launch a new real estate news venture.

McClain said his decision to sell the Los Angeles-focused blog was fueled by what he called its growing popularity, and his need for additional staffing.

“It was getting really difficult to run it independently because of all the time it takes to research, write a story, and edit,” McClain said in an interview with The Real Deal. “It just became this beautiful monster where I’m trying to run this blog all on my own and it wasn’t a feasible business model.”

McClain kept his identity a secret since creating the blog in 2016, choosing to hide behind the name “Yolanda Yakketyyak and the “real estate yenta.”

But the mystery was solved last June, when an investigation by the Los Angeles Times revealed McClain, a former Compass finance manager who had been laid off, created the site.

At the time of the unmasking, Compass released a statement saying it would “prosecute this individual to the fullest extent of the law.” The firm believed that McClain may have used company resources to extract his real estate scoops. It’s unclear whether Compass ever attempted to take such a step, and a representative for the brokerage declined to comment.

McClain declined to comment on the terms of the deal. He said it was possible coverage could stretch beyond L.A. and into other major cities.

Since launching in early 2016, Yolanda had been an enigma to the real estate industry. The blog often publishes high-profile — and high-priced — residential deals before they closed, revealing personal information about buyers and sellers in addition to private financing terms.

“I had no idea how to look at property records before but it was something that I learned how to do, and it just kind of happened naturally,” McClain said. “I was the only person crazy enough to spend so much time on it and was fascinated by it.”

Variety has been beefing up its celebrity news content for several years. In 2014, the entertainment trade publication hired Mark David, who had founded “Real Estalker,” to serve as its real estate editor.

In a final blog post early Monday morning explaining the departure, McClain explained his decision. Staying in character, he said “Yolanda” had been hired to join Variety as an editor-at-large and to co-found Dirt.com, a new standalone media brand. “Life is great,” it went on to say. “And we only get one shot at it, kids.”