Sold: Billionaire pays $63M at auction for Hearst estate

Nicolas Berggruen was among 6 bidders vying for storied Beverly Hills property, whose most recent owner had been in serious financial arrears

Nicolas Berggruen and the Hearst Estate (Hilton & Hyland, Getty)
Nicolas Berggruen and the Hearst Estate (Hilton & Hyland, Getty)

Another big winner has emerged in California this week in addition to Gov. Gavin Newsom: Billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen closed on Beverly Hills’ Hearst estate with a $63.1 million winning bid for the property at auction.

Berggruen beat out five other interested buyers for the 29,000-square-foot mansion in a 45-minute auction at a Downtown Los Angeles federal courthouse, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Hearst Estate at 1011 N. Beverly Drive is home to a Gordon Kaufman-designed mansion built in 1926 for publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The home is best known as a honeymoon destination for John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, and was the setting for the iconic horse-head scene in “The Godfather.”

The estate’s indebted owner Leonard Ross has had the sprawling property on and off the market since 2007. He was asking as much as $195 million at one time, and still had a $125 million price tag as of earlier this year.

Ross dropped the price to $90 million in the spring then to $70 million in late June, although the estate was valued again at around $90 million in July.

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The auction was more competitive than some had expected. Bidding started at $48 million, or $1 million more than what Berggruen offered in August.

Ross accepted that bid, triggering a bankruptcy auction for the property. Ross bought the estate in 1976 and owes around $80 million on the property, including $49 million to Fortress Investment Group.

Berggruen’s think tank, The Berggruen Institute, is building a headquarters on 450 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains. The French-born 60-year-old moved to L.A. permanently last year.

[LAT] — Dennis Lynch