The three Cliffside Drive homes perched side by side are a combined 22,000 square feet, and offer commanding views of the Pacific Ocean. Bought for $70 million over a three-year period, their ownership remained a mystery to neighbors in the exclusive Point Dume section of Malibu.
The largest one, a 12,000-square-foot mansion, was registered to an address in Switzerland. Another, a four-bedroom villa, was purchased by a company in the British Virgin Islands. And the third, a 7,600-square-foot “grand European-style estate,” was acquired from a Delaware-based LLC.
The high-end properties are among more than a dozen King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan purchased through shell companies in the U.S. and abroad, revealed in this week’s massive leak of financial documents known as the Pandora Papers.
The Malibu homes were purchased between August 2014 and September 2017, according to Redfin. King Abdullah has also been going ahead with a plan to demolish one of the existing homes and build a much larger one, according to a Washington Post investigation from the trove of documents in the Pandora Papers.
In some ways, the king’s desire to remain anonymous is unremarkable. The rich, famous and powerful have long plunged millions into choice homes while utilizing layers of shell companies to hide their dealings.
“It comes as no surprise,” said Compass luxury broker Ron Wynn.
The desire to hide true identity can be so great that an agent working on a sale may not know the actual buyer, said Michael Nourmand, owner of luxury brokerage Nourmand & Associates. He said situation is very rare.
Congress has sought to crack down on hidden purchases. Earlier this year, it passed a law that requires true owners of shell companies to identify themselves or face criminal penalties. The measure is aimed at helping stop the flow of illicit cash into real estate; there has been no allegation that any of the king’s homes identified in the Pandora Papers were purchased illegally.
But for years, the Malibu properties had beguiled the king’s neighbors and local government officials. They were left to speculate about the absent owner whose construction plans, which included a new pool and steel pergola, seemed to include space for security detail.
Here’s a deeper look into the king’s Malibu properties:
29140 Cliffside Drive
Purchased for $12.2 million, the 2,700-square-foot home is the smallest and least expensive of the trio. Built in 1982, the four-bedroom, four-bathroom home is on a 1.1-acre lot, and has a cozy beach chic vibe. The white, Mediterranean villa-style property is partially shrouded by dense foliage and includes garden walkways and panoramic ocean views.
The king bought the property in July 2015. The seller was Annette Smith, who represented a decades-old family trust, according to reports. The king purchased the property through a company called Setara Ltd., registered in the British Virgin Islands.
The king appears to have had big plans for the property. Last year, Setara submitted documents proposing a teardown, with a proposal to build a new home more than twice as big, according to the Post.
29150 Cliffside Drive
Fit for a king at 11,700 square feet, the mansion is the largest of the bunch, though the lot is just 1.2 acres. The home includes six or seven bedrooms — the listing sites differ on that — and at least seven bathrooms.
It was last purchased in August 2014, for $33.5 million, according to Redfin. The king bought the property through Nabisco Holdings, according to public records. . It is not linked to the cookie company. The firm is located in Montreux, Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva. The seller was Staz Trust, which was controlled by Steven Goldman and Azita Etaati.
Built in 1999 and renovated in 2005, the home has massive pillars, soaring entrances and a hotel-style pool. It features wall-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the ocean, a gym and a theater.
“This exquisite estate offers everything that is magnificent about Malibu living,” according to its 2014 listing. Compass’ Chris Cortazzo — Malibu’s top luxury broker — had the listing along with the one for 29208 Cliffside. Cortazzo declined to comment.
29208 Cliffside Drive
At 1.3 acres, the property has the largest lot of the three, and is next to Point Dume State Beach.
The home is 7,700 square feet, and has seven bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms.
It sold for $23 million in September 2017, making it the king’s most recent purchase of the three. The buyer was listed as Timara Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands. The seller was an LLC registered in Delaware.
In December 2020, Ceci Clarke Inc., a Camarillo-based construction company, placed a mechanic’s lien on the property for $755,000. It was lifted a couple weeks later, property records show. Ceci Clarke declined to comment.
Cortazzo’s listing for the property called it a “grand European-style estate with 100 feet of bluff-top panoramic ocean views.” The beige house gives off a light, airy feel — more like a king’s laid-back beach pad.
The king also had construction plans for this home, ICIJ reported. Those include the new pool, pergola and a large outdoor barbecue.