Bezos, Geffen, Katzenberg dominate LA’s biggest resi sales of 2020

Trio was reason ultra-luxury market set records

Clockwise from top left: 1801 Angelo Drive, 911 North Foothill Road, 1025 Loma Vista Drive and 1175 North Hillcrest Road (Google Maps)
Clockwise from top left: 1801 Angelo Drive, 911 North Foothill Road, 1025 Loma Vista Drive and 1175 North Hillcrest Road (Google Maps)

In Los Angeles, there should be little debate about the “V” shaped recovery of one very specific sector: Ultra-luxury residential sales.

Less than a month before the pandemic took hold, Jeff Bezos paid $165 million for a massive mansion in Beverly Hills, the most expensive single-family home buy in California history. Amazon’s quarterly profits would go on to break records in the months ahead.

The L.A. County luxury market soon nosedived, as government Covid orders banned private home showings and slammed the brakes on business. But when restrictions relaxed by late April, high-end home sales returned.

In July, single-family home deals for more than $2 million were up 192 percent year-over-year, according to Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel data.

And in August, Jeffrey Katzenberg sold his palatial Beverly Hills estate for $125 million.

While luxury sales dipped by fall, that was largely due to a lack of inventory not demand.

The five priciest residential sales in L.A. County this year totaled $448 million, just edging out the $438.8 million total for 2019. But this year’s tally was propped up by those two monster deals, which represented nearly two-thirds of the top five. By comparison, in 2019, four of the five biggest deals were at least $94 million each.

Here are the five biggest residential sales of 2020, based on an analysis of public records, news clips and market reports.

1801 Angelo Drive | $165M | Beverly Hills

Bezos bought this 13,000-square-foot home from media mogul David Geffen, while cruising on Geffen’s yacht, the Rising Sun.

Bezos’ purchase became public in February and officially closed in April, with a company called “Canyon Trust” listed as the buyer. The deal eclipsed the $150 million Lachlan Murdoch paid for Chartwell Estate in Bel Air as the largest home sale in state history.

The Murdoch deal involved eight real estate agents. But the Bezos-Geffen sale involved none, with the parties apparently ironing out terms at sea.

1025 Loma Vista Drive | $125M | Beverly Hills

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Katzenberg had one spectacular failure in 2020 and one notable success. His short-form subscription video service, Quibi, which launched in April to great fanfare, shut down by October.

But in August, he sold his 26,600-square-foot home in Beverly Hills. The property deed refers to the buyer as “The Loma Vista Trust,” but Variety reported that the true buyer is Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp.

Katzenberg, the former Disney CEO and DreamWorks Animation co-founder, had bought the property in 2009 for $35 million. Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency brokered the off-market sale.

911 North Foothill Road | $68M | Beverly Hills

Geffen strikes again, this time as the buyer of an 18,500-square-foot home. The seller was sports and entertainment executive Casey Wasserman. Deal terms became public in June.

Rappaport and Stephen Shapiro of Westside Estate Agency handled both sides of the deal. Rappaport represented Geffen again, in November, on a $34 million sale of undeveloped Beverly Hills land.

1175 North Hillcrest Road | $47M | Beverly Hills

Bin Fen Cheng, a San Marino-based real estate investor, bought this Nile Niami-designed spec mansion from Joseph Englanoff, a Niami creditor who seized the property in February.

Cheng’s November purchase of the 20,000-square-foot mansion came after years of on-again, off-again marketing; Niami had previously dubbed the home, “Opus.” One attention-grabbing promotional video featured women in bikinis, painted in gold.

The Beverly Hills sale was a bright spot for Rayni and Branden Williams, the former Hilton & Hyland agents who started their own shop, Beverly Hills Estate, this fall.

10410 Bellagio Road | $43M| Bel Air

Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick bought this 20,000-square-foot home from Artemis Capital founder Christopher Cole in April.

The sale was a big deal at the time, as it was the arguably the first high-end transaction following Covid’s onset.

Jeff Hyland, Drew Fenton, and Linda May of Hilton & Hyland, and Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker represented Cole. Bob Safai of Madison Capital Partners drove Kalanick’s side of the deal.

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