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Hot Property: Action, embezzlement and intrigue in the Bird Streets

Neal J. Leitereg, Jack Flemming
The modern mansion in Hollywood Hills West was seized by the federal government and sold for $18.5 million. Malaysian businessman Jho Low used money embezzled from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund to buy the home in 2012 for $38.98. Low is currently on the run from investigators. The 13,000-square-foot contemporary home was built on the same site where Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban once had a home. Features of the showplace include a skylight-topped foyer, elaborate chandeliers and a glass-enclosed garage.  (Douglas Elliman/Douglas Elliman)

In 2012, Malaysian businessman Jho Low turned heads when he dropped a whopping $38.98 million on a Hollywood Hills mansion, redefining what a home could sell for in the celebrity-filled neighborhood.

Not long after, a federal investigation alleged that Low bought the showplace with money embezzled from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund. Accused of masterminding a scheme that stole $4.5 billion, Low fled the country and federal authorities reached an agreement to list the property for $24.5 million — a staggering $14.48 million shy of what Low paid a few years earlier.

After almost a year on the market, it’s finally sold for $18.5 million.

Low, a high roller who partied with Paris Hilton and poured $100 million into Martin Scorsese’s film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” briefly stayed in the home before skipping town. It was originally owned by legendary Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán, who commissioned architect Ricardo Legorreta to build the place in 1986.

Perched in the Bird Streets enclave, the estate occupies more than an acre and boasts a long, private driveway and a guardhouse to monitor incoming guests. Photos that date to 2012 depict a modern structure of more than 13,000 square feet, but the listing notes that the property is in need of a full restoration.

The compound includes a six-bedroom home, a four-car glass garage, a guesthouse, a spa complex and a swimming pool. Statues dot the landscape around the estate, leading into expansive interiors with modern fixtures and striking views.

A skylighted foyer accesses the living spaces, which include a chandelier-topped dining room and a living room with a built-in fireplace. The voluminous great room adds a wet bar and a two-story wall of windows.

Pocketing doors line the master suite, extending to a private balcony with sweeping city views. Down below, the backyard has a tiered patio and fire pit.

Ernie Carswell and Christopher Pickett of Douglas Elliman held the listing. Roy Harel and Arin Gharibian of Keller Williams Hollywood Hills represented the buyer.

More action for film star

Jason Statham is selling it all. Just a few months after unloading his stylish Malibu beach house for $18.5 million, the action star is asking $6.995 million for his designer-redone Midcentury Modern home in the Hollywood Hills.

The spread carries a much different feel from his former place in Malibu — a stark black abode with contemporary style overlooking the ocean. This one’s tucked into the hills above the Sunset Strip, boasting an eye-catching asymmetrical roofline wrapped in cedar.

The lumber continues inside, lining the ceilings above the minimalist living spaces. Inspired by Scandinavian design, the floor plan features little more than polished concrete floors, crisp white walls and frameless clerestory windows.

Massive sliding walls of glass connect the living room and dining room to the outdoors. Pocketing doors in the galley-style kitchen also open to the rear.

Elsewhere are four bedrooms, three bathrooms and an office in 3,000 square feet. The master suite offers plenty of space, combining a sitting room, oak closet and dramatic bathroom with a free-standing tub and a private outdoor lounge with a fire pit.

The stylish amenities continue outside, where a saltwater pool and spa adjoin a barrel sauna and stainless-steel ice bath. The grounds cover about a quarter of an acre.

A native of England, Statham has been acting since 1998 with notable roles in “The Transporter,” “Crank,” “The Mechanic” and “The Expendables.” More recently, the 52-year-old became known for his role as Deckard Shaw in the “Fast & Furious” franchise.

Branden and Rayni Williams of Hilton & Hyland hold the listing.

Sale ends on a high note

Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Mark Ronson has sold a Los Feliz home he owned through a corporate entity for about $4.776 million.

Hedged and gated from the street, the 1935 Mediterranean Revival-style villa has been updated with colorful living spaces yet retains such period features as stenciled beams and Saltillo tile floors. A grand foyer with a sweeping staircase opens to a step-down living room with a fireplace. In the den, emerald-green walls and built-ins catch the eye.

The 6,263-square-foot floor plan also contains a center-island kitchen, a formal dining room and an expanded master suite. Including a two-story guesthouse, there are five bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms.

The house sits on about a third of an acre dotted with palm trees. A swimming pool, a dining patio and a loggia with a bar make up the backyard.

Ronson, 44, is known as the producer of such hits as Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” album as well as the singles “Rehab” and “Uptown Funk.” Two years ago, the British musician scored a hat trick of sorts when he won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy for co-writing the song “Shallow” for the movie “A Star Is Born.”

He bought the property four years ago for about $4.295 million.

Branden and Rayni Williams of Hilton & Hyland were the listing agents. Sheena Sadaghiani of Keller Williams Realty represented the buyer.

Navigating a new slope

It appears Lindsey Vonn won’t be riding out retirement in her Sherman Oaks home of three years. The former alpine skiing champion, who hung up her skis last year following the 2019 World Championships in Sweden, has put her contemporary-style residence in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood on the market for a dollar shy of $3 million.

The two-story clean-lined house has five bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms and more than 4,000 square feet of designer-updated living space.

Beyond the oversize front door, there are open-concept living areas, high ceilings and exposed beams. A wall of French doors and clerestories bring natural light into the kitchen, dining room and great room. Built-in bookshelves run from floor to ceiling in the office/den.

An expansive master suite opens to a private balcony overlooking the pool. An outdoor kitchen and patio space fill out the fenced and hedged grounds.

Vonn, 35, was the overall World Cup champion from 2008 to 2010 and again in 2012. During her career, she won two Olympic medals, including a gold in the downhill competition at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Last year, she won a bronze medal in women’s downhill at the World Championships — the final race of her career.

Jill Donaty of the Donaty Group holds the listing.

A Laker connection on the Westside

In Bel-Air, a Georgian-style manor once owned by late Lakers owner Jerry Buss just hit the market for $5.8 million.

That’s quite an uptick compared with the $775,000 Buss sold it for in 1984. That was five years after he bought the Lakers, kicking off the team’s legendary Showtime era that saw them win five NBA championships in the ’80s.

Spanning an acre on a double lot, the property holds a 4,400-square-foot home, a tennis court and a swimming pool. Lattice windows and shutters adorn the exterior. Inside, a bright floor plan features white walls and hardwood floors.

Dramatic wood beams top a living room that holds a fireplace and a piano nook, and the adjacent family room tacks on a wet bar. Elsewhere are four bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, a dining room with paneled walls and a chef’s kitchen with picture windows.

The master suite offers plenty of space, along with a whitewashed brick fireplace and a rounded bathroom with leafy views. In the front of the home, the second floor comes with a covered deck. Outside, patios, lawns and gardens surround the swimming pool.

Anthony Marguleas of Amalfi Estates holds the listing.

Buss, who died in 2013 at age 80, was a businessman and real estate mogul who took the Lakers to new heights under his tenure, bringing in legendary players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. For his contributions to the game, Buss was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Another home he owned — a Lakers-themed villa in Playa del Rey — sold in 2014 for $5.1 million.

Getting into a seller's groove

Guitarist G.E. Smith, who played with Hall & Oates before serving as leader of the Saturday Night Live Band in the ’80s and ’90s, is asking $1.995 million for his cozy Florida bungalow.

It’s a short stay for the music industry veteran, who paid $1.68 million for the home last April.

A block from the water, the coastal cottage is found on the north tip of Palm Beach, an affluent town on an 18-mile barrier island between Lake Worth Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. Mature palm trees and lush landscaping surround the secluded property.

Powder blue accents break up the crisp white exterior, which gives way to a single-story floor plan of 1,253 square feet. Hardwood floors line the living room and three bedrooms, while the family room and dining area boast Saltillo tile.

Three sets of French doors open to a covered veranda on the side of the home. Outside, a wood patio adjoins a swimming pool with privacy hedges.

Matthias Fretz of Douglas Elliman holds the listing.

In addition to his seven-year run with Hall & Oates, Smith has performed with Tina Turner, David Bowie and Bob Dylan. He’s released a handful of solo albums as well, including “In the World” and “Get a Little.”