UPDATED, August 12, 2019, 9:22 a.m.: It was 2016 and Robert Shapiro was at the peak of his home buying and developing binge.
That September, the CEO of Sherman Oaks, California-based Woodbridge Group of Companies spent $90 million to acquire the historic Owlwood Estate. The deal for the 12,200-square-foot mansion with sunken tennis court, guardhouses and two separate guest houses was the second-most expensive sale in Los Angeles County at the time. As the crown jewel in his company’s portfolio, that Holmby Hills mansion was among many properties that Woodbridge had been buying up with what seemed like a treasure chest full of cash.
“The Owlwood Estate has been the unchallenged symbol of uber-luxury since being built during the Great Depression, and we will keep it that way for another 80 years,” Shapiro said in a statement at the time.
Three years later the mansion is still standing but Woodbridge is not. And Shapiro’s treasure chest now looks like it contained only fool’s gold.
Owlwood is back on the market, now asking $115 million, down from the $180 million Woodbridge was seeking not long after acquiring it. In late 2017, the government began investigating Shapiro for orchestrating a $1.3 billion Ponzi scheme. Shapiro was later accused of using his many shell companies to bilk more than 9,000 investors, dangling purported real estate investments as the lure.
A new CEO was selected to liquidate Woodbridge’s numerous properties and assets, in order to pay back investors who were defrauded.
On Wednesday, Shapiro pleaded guilty to charges in federal court, admitting he “misappropriated” between $25 million and $95 million to fund his extravagant lifestyle, which included Picasso paintings, 14-karat white gold earrings, private planes and, oddly, a 1969 Mercury convertible.
Many of the investors – about 700 of them – were retirees based in Florida who poured $114 million into Woodbridge, a firm that was previously headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. In exchange for the guilty plea, 61-year-old Shapiro will avoid trial but could still face up to 25 years in prison.
Mansions and empty land
During the firm’s five-year run, Woodbridge acquired a number of luxury properties in L.A. While some — like Owlwood Estate — were historic homes, others were simply empty plots of land that Woodbridge promised to build into mansions.
Since the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Shapiro in December 2017, many Woodbridge-owned properties have hit the market. While some sales have already been approved in bankruptcy court — which was required since Woodbridge filed Chapter 11 two years ago — others are still listed.
Woodbridge, using over 100 Shapiro Property LLCs, purchased nearly 200 properties in and around Aspen, Colorado, and Los Angeles for $675 million, according to the complaint. The company also paid over $12 million in transaction-based commissions to 20 sales agents in Florida.
Here’s a rundown of some of the more notable homes the disgraced developer has owned.
Carla House | Los Angeles
A Trousdale Estates mansion, started by Woodbridge Group, hit the market in July for $46 million. The property, known as the Carla House, spans 20,000 square feet and includes seven bedrooms, an elevator, 80-foot swimming pool and movie theater. Designed by architect Noah Walker, it also features expansive decks overlooking the Hollywood Hills. Tomer Fridman and Sally Forster Jones of Compass have the listing. The property traded hands in February to an entity known as “Woodbridge Wind-Down Entity,” which completed construction of the house. The entity is managed by Fredrick Chin, the court-appointed administrator of the properties.
1 Electra Court | Hollywood Hills
Billionaire Frank Binder paid $29.5 million for the 4.5-acre Hollywood Hills megamansion in December. It was among the assets owned by Woodbridge Group that would be sold via bankruptcy court.
The property was built in 1990, and includes two swimming pools and rooftop lawns. It changed hands a few times before businessman Eddy Aslanian bought it for $4.4 million in 2002. He sold the estate and several acres of hillside land for $30 million to Megan Ellison, who flipped the property, which was more than 9 acres then, to Woodbridge Group in 2017 for almost $36 million. Woodbridge subsequently sold some of the land the following for $12 million, shrinking the property to 4.5 acres.
1118 Tower Road | Beverly Hills
A bankruptcy court approved the sale of a Spanish Colonial home at 1118 Tower Road for $7.3 million in January. Barrie Clapham bought the house for $650,000 less than what it was listed for on Redfin. The five-bedroom house was built in 1926 and includes 5,900 square feet of space, a pool and spa. Jon Grauman with the Agency had the listing for the deal, which is in escrow.
711 Walden Drive | Beverly Hills
The bankruptcy court also approved the $13.8 million sale of the five-bedroom, 8,200-square-foot mansion at 711 Walden Drive to Nathalie and Bernard A. Khalili. The seller was Riley Creek Investments LLC, a Delaware-based entity tied to Woodbridge that filed for bankruptcy in 2017.
Woodbridge Road home | Palm Beach
Perpro Systems International Inc., a company linked to Shapiro, paid $492,500 for the house at 145 Woodbridge Road in Palm Beach in 1993. The British Virgin Islands company sold it to another Shapiro entity, Coverdale Realty Corp., in 2003 for $1.73 million. Shapiro sold it for good in 2004 for nearly $1.7 million. The three-bedroom, roughly 3,000-square-foot home is near the ocean and was built in 1951.
Skygarden | Holmby Hills
Woodbridge paid $14.6 million to acquire a 1-acre plot of dirt at 10721 Stradella Court in Holmby Hills in February 2016, later tapping SAOTA to design renderings for a 15,000-square-foot spec home, named “Skygarden.” Two months later, Woodbridge and now-shuttered Mercer Vine brokerage marketed the property for $100 million. Buyers could also buy just the dirt, complete with design plans, for nearly $20 million. In February, the property was transferred to “Woodbridge Wind-Down Entity.” The property is under construction.
Granada Pointe Complex | San Fernando Valley
In April 2018, Woodbridge sold a 52-unit apartment complex, dubbed Granada Pointe, for $21.5 million. The buyer of the 2011-built building at 11541 Blucher Avenue was Adil A. Barakat Family Trust. One of the many LLCs tied to Woodbridge had purchased the property a year prior for $19.5 million.
In an earlier version of this story, it was incorrectly stated that a judge appointed a new CEO for “Woodbridge Wind-Down Entity” and some of the sales needed bankruptcy court approval.