Spelling Manor needs a Downton Abbey-like army of attendants

Fiance of heiress Petra Ecclestone said running their former Beverly Hills estate — which sold for $120M last year — was more like operating a hotel

Spelling Manor with Sam Palmer and Petra Ecclestone (Hilton & Hyland, Getty, iStock)
Spelling Manor with Sam Palmer and Petra Ecclestone (Hilton & Hyland, Getty, iStock)

What does it take to run one of the largest private residences in the world? A full-time staff of dozens and a mind for management, for starters.

That’s according to Sam Palmer, who lived in the 56,500-square-foot Spelling Manor in Beverly Hills with his fiancee, Petra Ecclestone, until she sold the estate last year for $120 million.

Now, Palmer has some tips for anyone considering purchasing a palace. The sprawling Spelling Manor requires a full-time staff of 35 to 50 gardeners, security personnel, butlers and house managers, he told the Wall Street Journal. Palmer assigned himself the task of running the property, and was inspired enough by the challenge to start his own home-staffing company, according to the Journal.

“Almost no one in L.A. can say they’ve lived in a bigger house than I have,” he told the outlet. “Because we’ve lived in a house like that, I can offer advice.”

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Palmer started dating Ecclestone in 2017 and moved into Spelling Manor the same year, he said. Ecclestone, the Formula One heiress, bought the home in 2011 for $85 million. Palmer quickly took an interest in running the house, which he said was like operating a hotel.

He cut costs by 50 percent, saying that many contractors regularly charged above market rates, knowing their client was wildly wealthy. Palmer said he noticed his friends were having similar issues with their mansions, so he launched Staffing Properties. The company also organizes trips to L.A., including booking flights and sourcing rentals for clients.

Ecclestone sold the 4.6-acre Spelling Manor last July for what was then a record sum for a private home in Los Angeles County. The amount was well below its original $200 million listing. The sale has since been topped by Lachlan Murdoch’s $150 million purchase of the Chartwell Estate in Bel Air in December followed by Jeff Bezos’ $165 million buy of David Geffen’s Beverly Hills estate earlier this year. No word on whether either of those two has enlisted Palmer to help run their castles. [WSJ] — Dennis Lynch