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Real Estate Round Up: Peter Thiel

BUYER: Peter Thiel
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $11,500,000
SIZE: 5,870 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms*

* as per public property records

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: We suggest the children snatch up a snack, pour out a few fingers of your favorite hooch and buckle in for the long haul because Your Mama’s feeling a wee bit long-winded today. Okay? Ready? 3, 2, 1…

It doesn’t take a silly (celebrity) real estate blog maven to tell the children that billionaires are different than regular people. While regular folks sweat blood, tears and financial fear over five dollar a gallon gas and worry about whether they’re going to have to eat cat food in their dotage, billionaires can and regularly do drop fat dimes on multi-million dollar high-maintenance residences around the globe. Simmer down fire breathers, we’re not making a statement, we’re just stating the obvious.

One such financially fortunate billionaire is German-born and San Francisco-based tech-tycoon, venture-capitalist and hedge fund manager Peter Thiel who has been on a bit of a real estate tear the last couple of years; By Your Mama’s faux-forensic research and rudimentary calculations Mister Thiel has coughed up close to fifty million clams over the last couple of years on at least three new private residences that include a double wide mansion San Francisco’s Marina District, an ocean front spread on Maui (HI), and, most recently, we hear through the real estate gossip grapevine, a high-style mansion perched on a prominent promontory just above the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles (CA).

He may not be a household name in a Hollywood sort of way but make no mistake puppeenuh-weenuhs, Mister Thiel’s a God damn rock star in the high-powered business and social circles in which he orbits. Mister Thiel, for those who don’t know, is the co-founder and former CEO of Pay Pal—he’s no longer involved in the day to day there—and a very early investor in the social media supernova Facebook. Mister Thiel’s original and exceedingly savvy 2004 angel investment of $500,000 in Facebook was recently reported by the folks at Time to now be worth somewhere around 2.5 billion dollars.

Mister Thiel, in his mid-40s, is an outspoken, occasionally controversial, and politically-minded Libertarian who’s ridiculously well-connected in the highest echelons of international affairs; He’s listed as a member of the Steering Committee of the somewhat secretive Bilderberg Group. Given the Bilderberg Group’s near total, (in)famous and conspiracy-creating media black out, his eponymous foundation kind of ironically gave a less then $500 donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an organization that promotes and defends “the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.”

In addition to his fast moving business enterprises, Mister Thiel offers notable philanthropic support of a number of idiosyncratic, somewhat esoteric and arguably even eccentric organizations such as The Methuselah Foundation that supports anti-aging research and the thrillingly ambitious and wildly out-of-the-box Seasteading Institute. In 2010 he controversially set up a fellowship that offers 20 people under the age of 20  $100,000 (apiece) if they would drop out of college and pursue their own start ups. At least some of the budding entrepreneurs live in a San Francisco mansion called The Glint.

Anyhoo, according to two sources—let’s call them Little Boy Blue and Henrietta Hasthedish—Mister Thiel recently and quite quietly dropped $11,500,000 for the approximately 6,000 square foot, multi-wing sprawler on a 1.23 mostly flat acre lot just above Los Angeles’ iconic Sunset Strip. The now-modified original residence was designed and custom built in the mid-1950s by revered architect Paul Revere Williams for Russian-born vaudevillian turned legendary restaurateur Dave Chasen and his wife Maude.

In case y’all don’t know, L.A.-based Mister Williams was a rarity in his field in that he was black at a time when there just weren’t that many black architects and certainly not a lot (if any) black architects who designed both traditional and contemporary private homes for a long list of rich and famous Showbizzers such as Frank Sinatra, Tyrone Power, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Barbara Stanwyck, Bert Lahr, and the magnificently-named Zasu Pitts. In the mid-1930s the in-demand architect was commissioned by hedonistic cigar mogul Jay Paley to design a monumental, modern-minded Georgian Colonial mansion in Bel Air’s Holmby Hills nowadays owned by Paris Hilton’s hotel magnate grandaddy Barron.

Indeed, as happens with time, many of the many dozens of Paul R. Williams-designed homes in southern California have been raped, pillaged and/or razed by subsequent owners. Those that aren’t—as well as those that have been respectfully altered—are still much coveted amongst affluent Angelenos who cotton to their understated elegance and proper proportions.

The Chasen house above the Sunset Strip was designed to meander across mostly flat hillside parcel accessible by two gated entries from two separate streets. Although we can’t confirm it still exists, according to Henrietta Hasthedish, the house was originally designed with an oval entrance hall contained just a few but very large rooms with commanding views across the twinkling lights of Tinseltown from downtown to, on a clear day, the Pacific Ocean. The Paul Revere Williams Project website describes the original residence far more succinctly than Your Mama ever could:

“The open floor-plan, multiple levels, interesting angles, curved walls, beamed ceilings and native materials such as hand-split cedar shakes and Palos Verdes stone inside and out gave the home a modern California feel.”

The Chasen house was owned for a spell in the 1990s by a now-deceased gentleman who—so tongue-wagged Henrietta Hasthedish—hailed from a prominent farm family and sometimes hosted “naked pool parties” in the backyard. Henrietta went on to tell Your Mama this Diener fella added a two-story wing off the west side of the house.

The Chasen residence passed through several hands and was eventually acquired in 2002 by Larry Schnur and Beverly Schnur, respectively a financier turned race car driver and a former decorating editor at House Beautiful magazine. The couple paid, according to property records $4,500,000 for the out-and-out trophy property that the Los Angeles County Tax Man shows spans 5,870 square feet and contains 4 bedroom and 5 bathrooms, numbers that may or may not be an accurate reflection of the current size and etc. of the home.

The Schnurs, as per a 2004 article in—you got it—House Beautiful, hired L.A. and Santa Barbara-based nice-gay interior decorator-designers Neil Korpinen and Rick Erickson to give the old girl a face lift. Like the house’s original celeb-favored architect, Misters Korpinen and Erickson had previously done over homes for a number other high-profile peeps including bawdy entertainer Bette Midler, stage and silver screen actor Nathan Lane, L.A.-based billionaire art patron Eli Broad, and curly-haired clarinetist Kenny G.

Mister Korpinen and Erickson maintained many of Mister Williams’ architectural swoops and flourishes but at the request of Mister and Missus Schnur infused the expansive interiors with the Hawaiian spirit of aloha that includes a whole lot vintage rattan furniture, grass cloth and vibrant tropical colors. The indoor areas transition to the outdoors with a Hawaiian style lanai—otherwise known to Mainlanders as a covered porch—that steps down to a prairie-sized sunbathing and entertaining terrace, swimming pool, spa. Beyond the swimming pool a low-profile rock wall rings a semi-circular grass pad that projects into the horizon where a (long ago removed) pool house once stood and obstructed the powerful city views.

Rumor has it the Schnurs recently went splitsville and quietly made their supremely sited residence above the Sunset Strip available for purchase through one of Los Angeles’ most successful and well-connected real estate agents.

Property records do indeed reflect a recent transaction recorded in mid-February 2012 that transferred the property from Mister Schnur to a San Francisco-based limited liability company with an address—the children may or may not care to know—directly across the street from a magnificent Art Deco tower Your Mama once upon a lifetime ago called home. None of our regular online resources reflect a purchase price but both Henrietta Hasthedish and Little Boy Blue both told us the highly desirable property went for around $11,000,000.

As far as Your Mama knows—which is really so very little—this is the first house in Los Angeles owned by Mister Thiel who has lived primarily in San Francisco since at least the early Aughts when he purchased two adjoining penthouse apartments atop the Four Seasons Residences of San Francisco for an undisclosed amount of moolah. Property records indicate he sold off his fancy Four Seasons penthouse(s) in October 2005 for $6,500,000.

We’re not quite sure of his real estate whereabouts for the next few years but in early September 2009 a 4-story mansion in San Francisco’s Marina District—a bulky combination of two side-by-side houses—popped up on the open market with an asking price of $8,180,000. Within six weeks the price dropped to $7,400,000 and in mid-January 2010 the mansion was sold to a limited liability concern connected to Mister Thiel for, according to the property records we peeped, $6,500,000.

Listing information from the time of the sale describes the 7,000-plus square foot beast of an urban mansion (rear exterior and roof terrace shown above) as a “passionate and intelligent work of world-renowned architect/builders, Remick Associates” with 5 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, and a 2-car attached garage with direct entry. The interior spaces where then finished with, again according to listing information from the time of the purchase, “White onyx panels, figured and quartered hard woods, marble, cast and hand blown glass, granite and pear wood.”

Mister Thiel, according to the California Markt website, subsequently had the whole place worked over by Fog City-based decorator and Gilt Groupe executive Shane Reilly. The classic, 1940s Marina-style exteriors embrace a more modern vibe inside and includes, according to California Markt article, a living room that works for both intimate and grand scale entertaining, two dining rooms, a private office that adjoins the master suite, and a roof top pavilion with marble-faced fireplace. A massive roof terrace offers dead on and couldn’t-be-closer view of the Beaux Art-style Palace of Fine Arts on one side and a wind-screen shielded view on the other of the vermilion towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mid-summer last (2011) it was widely reported by international property gossips that Mister Thiel, through a Delaware-based limited liability corporation, paid an toe-curling $27,000,000 to add a 1.69-acre, ocean front spread near Kihei on the Hawaiian island of Maui to his really-beginning-to-bulge property portfolio. The Ahihi Bay-fronting real estate paradise (above) was not listed on the open market and was sold by a man described in various press accounts of the transaction as a “Wyoming rancher” and the founder of Huish Detergents, a private-label laundry- and dish-product maker.

The gated residence, a quartet of interconnected pavilions, curls around a tropically landscaped courtyard with land-side swimming pool on one side and opens on the ocean side to to a foliage-ringed flat lawn that wraps around the house. Of course, we’ve never set foot on the property but can imagine the views are beyond delicious from the private, peninsula setting that juts ever-so slightly out into the bay. The house, according to property records available online, measures in at 4,735 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms, all numbers that may or may not be an accurate reflection of the houses actual size and etc.

As it turns out Mister Thiel’s Hawaiian hideaway is just a half mile up the road from the ocean front residence scooped up by Aerosmith front man and American Idol judge Steven Tyler in late 2011 for $4,800,000.

In addition to his homes in San Francisco, Hawaii and now Los Angeles, Mister Thiel also maintains a New York City rental residence located in a renovated 19th century building—once the headquarters of Tiffany & Co.—now sheathed in a slick, smoked glass curtain that both shields and reveals the building’s original fenestration and architectural details. Previous reports on Mister Thiel’s residency in the building that looms over the western edge of always bustling Union Square describes the rented pied a terre as having 16-foot ceilings, 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, custom finishes by famous interior designer Vicente Wolf, and “sweeping views” over the tree-tops of Union Square. He’s said to be paying $25,000 for the apartment (shown above) but—use yer noggin’s butter beans—we certainly can’t confirm that figure.

Mister Thiel, for anyone who thinks it might matter, is an out gay man well known amongst a certain set for throwing glitzy “soirees” with, an anonymous source told The Daily News last year, food and cocktail servers in “assless chaps.” Last summer, again according to The Daily News, Mister Thiel hosted an evening get together at his Union Square aerie with a “not-so-hot shirtless bartender”where a gaggle of party goers got stuck in the elevator on their way out in the early morning hours. This was not, we’re pretty sure, the same summertime shindig during which right wing sassy pants Ann Coulter brazenly and fearlessly slammed gay rights and equality during a speech to a roomful of mostly gay men in attendance to commemorate of the one-year anniversary of GOProud, an advocacy group for gay conservatives.

 Since Mister Thiel likes to throw (sometimes crazy) parties and host events for causes he cares about and his new house in Los Angeles has an alleged history of naked pool parties Your Mama expects (and hopes) it’s only a short matter of time before some of our more a-list homo pals and acquaintances will soon have yarns to spin about the doings up at Mister Thiel’s fab new party pad above the Sunset Strip.

aerial photo (Los Angeles): Bing
listing photos (San Francisco): Pacific Union International via Redfin
aerial photo (Hawaii): Steve Strand via Pacific Business News
listing photos (New York): Stribling via The Jane Dough

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