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‘Microsoft Millionaire’ Chris Peters Lists Celeb-Pedigreed Bel Air Estate

James McClain

A lovingly preserved Spanish Colonial-style home sited in prime East Gate Bel Air has popped up for sale, flaunting a hefty $17.45 million asking price. Sited just a short hop above Sunset Boulevard and originally built in 1928, the estate was co-designed by Wallace Neff and John Byers — two of the most acclaimed architects of that era — and sports a notable Hollywood pedigree.

From 1974 until 1990, the property was owned by Peter Bogdanovich, the flamboyant Tinseltown filmmaker perhaps best-known for writing and directing “The Last Picture Show,” for frequently popping up on “The Sopranos” as the psychotherapist of Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist, and for a bitter, decades-long feud with Cher.

Bodganovich lived in the property with his series of romantic partners; chronologically, they were actor Cybill Shepherd, the murdered Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten, and Stratten’s younger half-sister Louise Stratten, whom Bogdanovich eventually married. His Bel Air home also played host to Orson Welles, a frequent houseguest before Bogdanovich eventually lost the place to foreclosure.

In 2002, Oscar-winner and hardcore architecture buff Diane Keaton paid $6.4 million for the property. She subsequently brought in acclaimed designer Stephen Shadley, and the talented pair gave the one-acre estate a thorough gut job, reimagining every corner and cranny while expanding the house, which was photographed for a 2005 issue of Architectural Digest.

Mere months after the AD photoshoot, Keaton quietly sold the one-acre spread in an off-market deal for a whopping $16.5 million. The all-cash buyers were a couple from Seattle — wealthy tech executive Chris Peters and his wife June — who brought in their own designer, L.A.-based decorator Madeline Stuart, to furnish the place in a style complimenting its 1920s Spanish Revival roots.

Though he’s not a household name in the vein of Bill Gates or the late Paul Allen, Peters attained vast riches from his fortunate position as one of Microsoft’s earliest employee hires. Originally brought on in the 1980s as a lowly computer programmer,  Peters was granted stock options and became an overnight millionaire dozens of times over after Microsoft’s historic 1986 IPO and the subsequent rise in share price, which has since created an estimated 12,000 “Microsoft millionaires” from within the company itself.

By the time he “retired” from Microsoft in the early aughts, while still in his early 40s, Peters had risen to the rank of Vice President in charge of the Microsoft Office suite, and was more than set for life. In the years following his L.A. move, he purchased the Professional Bowlers Association, saving it from bankruptcy — a move heralded by hardcore bowling aficionados the world over — and indulged his artistic side by becoming a painter.

Unfortunately for Peters and his wife June, their Bel Air home’s current $17.45 million asking price is less than $1 million more than was paid back in 2005. Even in the unlikely event of a full-price offer, it seems all but certain they face an overall financial loss on the estate — especially after realtor fees, taxes and 15 years of hefty carrying costs are factored into the equation, though they can likely well afford the crunch.

Gated and encircled by Mediterranean-style hedges, gardens and mature olive trees, the property features a substantial motorcourt hewn from decomposed granite — installed by Keaton — that sweeps around two sides of the house. Fortified by mission-style courtyard walls, the sprawling residence is divided into two distinct wings joined together by a baronial living room with vaulted, beamed ceilings and a large fireplace.

The 8,200 sq. ft. home’s left wing contains a movie theater, maid’s quarters and a gourmet kitchen with a breakfast bar slathered in colorful, vintage tiles that opens directly the dining room and family room; the more private right wing contains a library, a bonus room that could be a gym or large office, and the lavish master suite. Most rooms in the estate have French doors for convenient access to various parts of the gardens.

A quick comparison of the current listing photos to Keaton’s Architectural Digest photoshoot reveals that Peters has opted to change very little about the house itself during his 15 years of ownership, save for making the whole place look a bit more mature, a bit less whimsical and free-spirited. Out back there’s still a large grassy lawn, a raised swimming pool with more colorful tilework, and an adjacent cabana with a fireplace and plenty of space for outdoor entertaining and dining.

The Peters family has already significantly downsized their L.A. residential circumstances; last month, they paid $8.45 million for a smaller Spanish Colonial home in the flats of Beverly Hills. That property, for what it’s worth, was formerly owned by the late movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck, co-founder of the production company that became 20th Century Fox.

Josh Flagg at Rodeo Realty holds the listing.

Launch Gallery: Microsoft's Chris Peters Lists Bel Air Estate

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