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Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen Pays $63.1 Million at Auction for L.A.’s Storied Hearst Estate

·3 min read

After 162 days on the market, one of the most iconic properties in Los Angeles has sold at auction. Following 71 inquires, 41 private showings, 12 written offers and five overbidders, the recently rebranded Hearst Estate — formerly known as the Beverly House, for its prime locale on North Beverly Road in prime Beverly Hills — has transferred for $63.1 million. And though that’s a huge discount off the original $89.75 million asking price back in April, and even the reduced price of nearly $70 million in June, it still ranks as the most expensive home ever sold at auction, well ahead of Beverly Park’s Villa Firenze, which was auctioned off this past April for $51 million to Bel Air life sciences entrepreneur Roy Eddleman.

“We knew that when we lowered the price a couple of months ago, the property would likely sell for $55 million to $65 million,” says Anthony Marguleas of Amalfi Estates, who co-listed the Hearst Estate with Gary Gold of Hilton & Hyland, and Zizi Pak and John Gould, both of Rodeo Realty. “The fact we got $63.1 million was fantastic.”

The massive property’s new owner is Parisian-born billionaire investor/philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen — founder and chairman of the Berggruen Institute, a think-tank geared toward developing ideas and shaping political, economic and social institutions for the 21st century — whose initial offer to purchase the property for $47 million amid bankruptcy proceedings was accepted in late August. Because the accepted offer was subject to an overbid, an auction date was set for Sept. 14; the opening bid was required to be $48 million. Because of high interest, the judge started the bidding at $52.1 million and went up in $100,000 increments from there.

Per Marguleas, the auction started with five overbidders; the first two backed out at $53.1 million and the third at $56.2 million. It came down to a struggle between the L.A.-based Mani Brothers and Berggruen; the latter won, and escrow is expected to close near the end of September.

Designed by famed architect Gordon Kaufmann and built in 1927 by banking executive Milton Getz, the eight-bedroom, 15-bath property was acquired in 1946 for around $120,000 by Marion Davis for her partner, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy reportedly spent their honeymoon at the home, and in the ensuring years, portions of “The Godfather” and “The Bodyguard” were filmed there. More recently, it was the site of Adele’s 31st birthday party and filming for Beyoncé’s “Black is King” video.

The current owner — attorney, financier and real estate investor Leonard Ross — purchased the property in the 1970s and owned it for over 40 years. He first floated the estate on the market in 2007, when he was experiencing financial difficulties, asking $165 million and later inexplicably bumping the asking price up to $195 million. Per Marguleas, the estate has since been in and out of bankruptcy for about 10 years. Another Ross-owned property next door, at 1013 N. Beverly Drive, also is on the market for $15.5 million in a separate bankruptcy case.

Nestled atop a promontory, at the end of an 800-foot driveway, the main house features nine bedrooms and 15 bathrooms spread across 29,000 square feet. Among the highlights: a billiard room sporting with herringbone parquet floors, plus a fireplace and espresso-stained ceiling taken from the same lot of materials used to build the Hearst Castle, along with a formal living room boasting a 22-foot arched, hand-painted ceiling and a two-story, hand-carved library. There’s also an art-deco nightclub and a duo of screening rooms.

Several ancillary structures include two guest/staff apartments and a five-bedroom gate house, while the 3.5-acre grounds feature an Olympic-sized pool flanked by two reflecting pools and a tennis court set amid manicured lawns and waterfalls.

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