Real Estate newsletter: A bizarre mansion with a shady past

Welcome to the Real Estate newsletter, which marks an exciting new period for The Times’ coverage of Southern California’s larger-than-life real estate market.

The newsroom is beefing up its commitment to all things real estate by bringing the work of housing market reporter Andrew Khouri, commercial real estate reporter Roger Vincent and luxury real estate reporter Jack Flemming under one umbrella.

Their work will live on the brand-new Real Estate page and be condensed into this weekly newsletter. While we bid a fond farewell to Hot Property legend Lauren Beale, you, dear reader, are still in good hands. The Hot Property section and name, meanwhile, are moving to a sponsored content format separate from this newsletter and from our real estate coverage. (See the editor’s note below for a recap.)

This week saw new listings from Vice Media co-founder Shane Smith and Warriors star Steph Curry. In Beverly Hills, an infamous mansion built with bizarre taste and potentially shady funding traded hands for $27.4 million — the priciest sale in the 90210 so far this year. You also have to see the Malibu home built by Ed Niles, which most would identify as a futuristic airport terminal or a Bond villain’s lair more than a home.

Feb. 9 also marked the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, and we looked back on the disaster — along with the lives it changed and the damage it wrought — through a few different lenses.

A mansion in a leafy estate.

The leafy spread includes a 1930s mansion, guesthouse and 74-foot swimming pool surrounded by lawns and citrus groves.

(Jacob Burghart)

Shane Smith, the flashy media mogul who co-founded Vice Media and serves as its executive chairman, is eyeing a massive sum for his prized compound just outside Santa Monica: $50 million.

The property is not only the most expensive property on the market in Pacific Palisades, but it’s also one of the biggest. The spread spans 3.35 acres and centers on a 1930s Mediterranean-style mansion surrounded by lawns, gardens and citrus groves.

Known as Villa Ruchello, the estate is a celebrity in itself. In addition to appearing in “Entourage” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” it has been occupied by director Henry Jaglom and members of Fleetwood Mac over the years.

A native of Canada, Smith co-founded Vice with Suroosh Alvi and Gavin McInnes in 1994 as a magazine and has since grown the media brand into an industry-spanning empire worth billions.

Warriors star lists in the Bay Area

Stephen Curry is shooting for a small profit in Menlo Park, Calif., where an investment home he owns is on the market for $1.349 million. That’s about $150,000 more than the two-time NBA most valuable player paid for it two years ago, records show.

The Golden State Warriors star went on a bit of a buying spree in 2019, shelling out $31 million for a three-story stunner in Atherton and buying the Menlo Park home a few months later. It lies about three miles from the Atherton estate and features a much smaller floor plan with three bedrooms and one bathroom across 1,240 square feet.

Curry and his wife, Ayesha, touched up a few things during their ownership, adding modern doors and chic lighting fixtures throughout the single-story floor plan.

The 32-year-old has spent his entire NBA career with the Warriors, leading the team to three NBA championships and becoming a six-time all-star and two-time MVP along the way. In 2017, he inked a five-year supermax contract with the Warriors worth $201 million.

Beverly Hills house has a shady past

A fully furnished mansion and a pool.

The fully furnished mansion spans 13,000 square feet with six bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, motorized walls of glass and an infinity pool out back.

(Mark Singer)

This 13,000-square-foot mansion in Beverly Hills has a new owner — one who wasn’t accused of laundering about $250 million from a Malaysian government investment fund and using the stolen cash to produce “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

It’s been a dramatic decade for the property perched in Trousdale Estates. In 2007, it was bought by celebrity developer Mohamed Hadid, who erected an Egyptian-themed house complete with a pyramid in the front room and sold it to Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman accused of masterminding a scheme that stole $4.5 billion from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, also known as 1MDB.

Low, who fled the country and is considered an international fugitive, later transferred it to his partner in the scandal, “The Wolf of Wall Street” producer Riza Aziz. He poured $40 million into remodeling the home, but construction was halted when federal authorities accused him of laundering $250 million from 1MDB, money that allegedly funded the movies he produced and the real estate he purchased.

Under new ownership, the mansion surfaced for sale at $30 million last summer and just sold for $27.4 million.

Check this place out

A futuristic estate.

The two-acre estate features a sky bridge that connects a 35-foot great room to a long, slender home made of pod-like spaces suspended in the air.

(Scott Everts)

In an architecturally eclectic city where Mediterranean mansions sidle up to century-old Craftsmans and boxy modern builds, this steel-and-glass creation overlooking the ocean in Malibu still manages to stand out.

The house, which resembles an airport terminal crossed with a supervillain’s lair, just surfaced for sale at $20 million. It’s the first time the home has ever hit the market.

The striking residence was built in 1992 by Ed Niles, the modern architect whose glass-heavy structures have redefined the concept of a house across Southern California for the last half-century

Two structures occupy the property: a long, slender home made of pod-like pieces suspended 16 feet in the air, and a 35-foot semicircular great room wrapped in glass and steel. A custom sky bridge connects the two.

Remembering the Sylmar earthquake

An aerial view of a fallen building.

An aerial view of the San Fernando Veterans Hospital after 1971 earthquake devastation.

(Los Angeles Times)

It was a Tuesday half a century ago, just after 6 a.m., and most of Los Angeles was dozing, Times columnist Steve Lopez writes. The wake-up call lasted 12 seconds, registered 6.6 on the Richter scale, buckled buildings and killed 64 people.

Those who recall what is known as the Sylmar or San Fernando earthquake of 1971 describe the experience as if the ground is still shaking, with specific markers seared into their memories.

Reporter Doug Smith examines how bad it might have been in this piece: When the Sylmar earthquake rumbled through Los Angeles 50 years ago, on Feb. 9, 1971, the top of the earthen Lower Van Norman Dam melted into the reservoir. No one knows exactly what kept the dam near Granada Hills from collapsing. Was it the number of feet of earthen wall that remained? Was it the duration of the quake, since a few more seconds might have shaken loose the rest of the dam face, unleashing a torrent on tens of thousands of homes below?

A note to readers

Hot Property is changing, but the commitment of the Los Angeles Times newsroom to real estate coverage will not.

As of Feb. 6, The Times newsroom is no longer producing the section known as Hot Property.

Hot Property will relaunch in print and online as a brand publishing product sold by the advertising department. All paid content will carry clear disclaimers indicating that they are sponsored.

This renamed Real Estate newsletter will contain newsroom coverage of the luxury housing market alongside our reporting on the broader residential and commercial real estate markets that run in the Business section online and in print. This transition will free up journalists in the Business department to tackle more ambitious enterprise, investigative and service journalism, helping readers navigate the housing market.

Hot Property coverage began in 1984 when the late Ruth Ryon had a hunch that readers would be interested in the intersection of two Los Angeles obsessions: celebrity and real estate. We remain committed to those stories, and Times Business reporters will continue breaking news on eye-catching sales, surprising price cuts and unique properties across the Southland.

What we’re reading

The New York Times offers a glimpse of life inside a luxury condo tower: 432 Park Avenue, which briefly was the world’s tallest residential building, at nearly 1,400 feet. The high-price-tag address “faces some significant design problems,” perhaps shared by other supertowers, including water damage, elevator malfunctions, wind sway and “walls that creak like the galley of a ship.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development said it is cracking down on LGBTQ housing discrimination, the Hill reported.