Inside a billionaires’ playground

Apr.April 17, 2017 09:00 AM
1187 North Hillcrest Road was recently purchased by Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer owner Evan Metropoulos for $65 million.

When spec homebuilder Bruce Makowsky unveiled an $85 million mansion on North Hillcrest Road in the Trousdale Estates area of Beverly Hills in 2014, industry insiders raised eyebrows. Sure, the cul-de-sac was a high-end enclave, but it had never commanded the jaw-dropping prices seen on the Bird Streets or in Beverly Park.

But Makowsky timed his gamble just right. Mere months after he listed the property, Markus “Notch” Persson, the Swedish video game designer responsible for getting hundreds of millions hooked on “Minecraft,” sold his company Mojang to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. That kind of newly minted wealth needs an outlet to express itself, and Persson found it in Makowsky’s manse. He closed on the property, at 1181 North Hillcrest in 2014 for $70 million.

That deal opened the floodgates, with sellers and developers in the area trying to outdo one another with product and price. In February, spec home developer Nile Niami listed a new luxury home at 1175 North Hillcrest for $100 million.

“What was once a $10 million or $20 million street is now a $50 million or $100 million street,” said one broker whose client is eyeing a property on Hillcrest.

Read on for a closer look at the deals done by the motley crew of business moguls, foreign dignitaries and party boys trying to turn Hillcrest into the new Billionaires’ Row of the Hollywood Hills.

1. 912 North Hillcrest Road

This 11,000-square-foot mansion owned by Riza Aziz, a film producer and the stepson of Malaysian leader Najib Razak, could be up for grabs soon. The Department of Justice moved to seize the property last year, alleging it was bought with money misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a state fund created in 2009. Aziz bought the property from a friend, Malaysian businessman Jho Low, a party boy tied up in the 1MDB scandal who’s also been linked to Paris Hilton. Aziz has maintained his innocence in the scandal. The property has a 120-foot-long pool, a projection room, a gourmet kitchen and five bedrooms.

2. 1016 North Hillcrest Road

Last year Mitch Julis, a founding member of hedge fund Canyon Capital Partners, shelled out $21 million to buy a Hillcrest Road property from the estate of Eldon Industries CEO Robert Silverstein, according to real estate gossip blogger Yolanda Yakketyyak. The principal lot, at 1016 North Hillcrest Road, comprises a main house with four bedrooms, a winding pebble driveway, glass walls and even a secret speakeasy. The deal also included a 10,000-square-foot lot overlooking the property.

3. 1130 North Hillcrest Road

Hedi Gores, the co-founder of Pressed Juicery and ex-wife of private equity billionaire Alec Gores, bought this pad for $6 million in 2012, records show. She once dated Good Charlotte singer Benji Madden. The 5,603-square-foot property has four bedrooms and five bathrooms, according to Redfin.

4. 1163 North Hillcrest Road

Last year, hedge funder David Kabiller snagged the Mexican-style mansion on this site as a teardown, paying $35 million for a chance to start afresh. The 7,182-square-foot, four-bedroom property was once owned by Henry Burroughs, founder of Fortress Capital. Kabiller also purchased an adjacent lot for roughly $15 million.

5. 1169 North Hillcrest Road

This is yet another Hillcrest property involved in the 1MDB scandal. The former owner of this undeveloped parcel, Hakkasan CEO Neil Moffitt, reportedly served as an intermediary for Khadem al-Qubaisi, an Emirati businessman and the former managing director of the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC). Qubaisi was detained in the United Arab Emirates last year after U.S. authorities alleged he had looted millions of dollars in dealings between the Malaysian fund and IPIC. Private equity mogul Alex Soltani bought the property for $22.4 million in 2016 and later flipped it to its current owner, a Chinese buyer, for $32 million in December 2016.

6. 1174 North Hillcrest Road

There’s plenty of room for blue suede shoes in this three-bedroom pad, which Elvis and Priscilla Presley reportedly bought for $400,000 after their marriage in 1967. It was later owned by hotelier Peter Morton, of Hard Rock Cafe fame, who went on to sell it for $14.5 million to Hamed El Chiaty, an Egyptian businessman. The 5,367-square-foot property is currently on the market for $30 million.

7. 1175 North Hillcrest Road

Nile Niami’s $100 million spec home, dubbed the Opus, spans 20,500 square feet, with seven bedrooms and 11 bathrooms. He’s throwing in a handful of headline-grabbing extras: a gold Lamborghini Aventador and a gold Rolls-Royce Dawn, 170 bottles of Cristal, $2 million in artwork and a full-time property manager, whose salary will be prepaid for two years. Niami, a former movie producer who’s in the midst of what’s expected to be a pricey divorce, acquired the site for $9.8 million in 2012, records show. He’s also planning a $500 million spec property in Bel Air.

8. 1181 North Hillcrest Road

The shot heard ’round the real estate world: Markus Persson paid $70 million to developer and handbag tycoon Bruce Makowsky for this 23,000-square-foot spec house, once reportedly eyed by Queen Bey and Jay Z. It features the standard eight bedrooms and 15 bathrooms, plus the perks: a 54-foot curved glass door that opens onto an infinity pool, a 2,500-bottle wine room, a candy room, a museum-style garage with a revolving floor and an 18-seat tiered screening room.

9. 1187 North Hillcrest Road

Evan Metropoulos, brother of Playboy Mansion owner Daren Metropoulos, recently scooped up this estate for $65 million. That may seem exorbitant, but the home where“Make Room for Daddy” star Danny Thomas once lived was originally listed at $135 million. Metropoulos knew he had leverage, because the seller, billionaire Lebanese-British business mogul Gilbert Chagoury, has been barred from entering the U.S. on terrorism-related grounds. Chagoury is one of the biggest donors to the Clinton Foundation. He bought the 2.5-acre, eight-bedroom, 12-bathroom estate for $15 million in 2000. Current Hillcrest residents, here’s a fun fact on your new neighbor Metropoulos: He once told the New York Times that he had “been with more chicks than any fat guy you know, except Pavarotti.”

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