BUYER: Paul Allen
LOCATION: Atherton, CA
SIZE: 22,005 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 6 full and 4 half bathrooms
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Your Mama already knows we’re a little late to this particular high-profile property purchase party but we can’t resist us a little ditty about a multi-billionaire philanthropist and hardcore real estate baller like Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who—so the scuttlebutt goes—just added a newly constructed, $27 million mansion in the über-affluent Silicon Valley community of Atherton (CA)* to his already substantial residential property portfolio. Or did he?
None of the three property records data bases Your Mama consulted reflect a recent transfer of ownership from Pacific Peninsula Group (P.P.G.)—the upscale architecture and property development concern that purchased the property in question in the last days of 2010 for $5.9 million—but, sho enuf, butter beans, the San Mateo County Assessor’s online portal shows the high-priced property recently traded from P.P.G. to a private family trust named after and controlled by Jo Lynn Allen. Jo Lynn Allen, a woman more publicly known as Jody, is Paul Allen’s sister. This would suggest to Your Mama—but certainly not prove—that the Atherton spread was acquired not by Mister Allen but rather by his sister and right hand woman.
Miz Allen, along with her brother, co-founded and is the president and CEO of Vulcan Inc., the entity that manages the vast and varied business investments for the Allen family. She also serves as the co-founder and president of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation that oversees much if not all of the philanthropic endeavors of the Allen family and she serves as the president of Vulcan Productions, a documentary and independent feature film production operation with credits that include Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues, Far from Heaven and Hard Candy.
Your Mama’s research on the interweb indicates Miz Allen’s primary residence, like her brother’s, is on Mercer Island, a prestigious residential island at the south end of Lake Washington, five or seven miles from downtown Seattle. However, six or so months ago the Allens announced their investment arm, Vulcan Capital, planned to open a tech/internet investment office in Palo Alto, CA, the spiritual if not geographic heart of the Silicon Valley. Given that development it’s really not so odd or surprising to Your Mama or any other property gossip that either or both of the Allens might opt to buy a considerable and considerably plush home base in the Bay Area. This one, the one bought with a trust in Miz Allen’s name, is conveniently just three or four miles from Vulcan Capital’s downtown Palo Alto offices. Listen, chickens, what do we really know? For all we know Mister and Miz Allen will share the super-size house in Atherton as a very part-time pied-a-terre. Stranger things have happened. Anyhoodles, poodles…
Tucked privately down a discreet, private driveway on a 1.97 acre flag lot, the decidedly contemporary and approximately 22,000 square foot main house, as per listing details Your Mama dug up on the internets, contains six bedrooms, six full and four half bathrooms, and seven fireplaces. In case any of y’all might be wondering, 22,000 square feet is nearly ten times the size of the average American home. A self-contained, kitchen-equipped guest house next to the backyard swimming pool has two more bedrooms and bathrooms while, attached to the five-car garage, there is what listing details describe as a “House Manager Suite.”
This huge and arguably self-indulgent abode may not fit your assiduous personal preferences of architectural purity and perfection but, as far as this property gossip is concerned, it can and should be appreciated—and/or criticized—as a painstakingly concocted, exquisitely crafted, and exceptionally spacious residential monument to extreme wealth and minimalist-minded haute luxury.
The austere yet sumptuously sybaritic, light-filled, and imposingly stately residence does quite happily without florid or frivolous architectural details, i.e. the house lacks any ceiling moldings and makes use of only the simplest of baseboards. Instead, the mansion cleaves to an organic but elegantly astringent and exquisitely discriminating materials palette that includes: wood floors that Your Mama would be surprised to learn are not French oak or some other insanely pricey imported wood; windows and doorways framed in wide but simple strips of teak or some other exotic and rare wood; meticulous mill work that includes a repetitive gridded paneling that pops up throughout the house; and a variety of custom cabinetry styles smartly unified with extra thick slabs of marble or some other wickedly costly stone.
A double-height foyer anchored by a muscular glass and metal stair case leads directly into a voluminous double-height formal living room with a raised hearth fireplace, clerestory windows, and a towering trio of transom-topped windows with a long view framed and funneled by a treed allée of undetermined species. In the formal dining room the (could be off-center) fireplace was elevated to table height and three transom-topped glass doors provide easy access to the extensive entertainment and recreation terrace(s) that runs along the back of the house. Listing photographs also show three more more transom-topped windows in the otherwise fully-paneled library/office that open to the rear terrace.
A long butler’s pantry links the formal dining room to the less formal family quarters that—as best as we can tell—includes a snazzy, crisp, and clean-lined kitchen with two central work islands as well as a double-height family room and an adjoining breakfast room with (at least) two walls of rectangular-paned glass.
A fully fitted and finished lower level appears to contain several casual living areas and lounges, at least on of which has an entire wall of frameless glass that opens out to a small terrace and long staircase that ascends grandly to the stone terrace that surrounds the dark bottom swimming pool and inset spa. (The LED lighting installed along the steps the lead up from the pool deck to the lawn lend an interesting graphic touch to the night lighting but, call Your Mama old fashioned—and we’ve been called so much worse than old fashioned, children, it comes off as a little too Las Vegas for to our personal and possibly persnickety outdoor lighting scheme likes and dislikes.
Whichever Allen—Paul and/or Jody—makes use of the Atherton residence in question will have some very powerful tech industry titans for neighbors: one time Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Hewlitt Packard president and CEO Meg Whitman, veteran Yahoo! executive turned angel investor Farzad Nazem, multi-billionaire financier Charles Schwab, Intuit co-founder Tom Proulx, and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt who—Your Mama heard through the Platinum Triangle gossip grapevine—has been peeping high-priced properties in Los Angeles and even made a (rejected) low-ball offer on a quirky but dignified (and published) Tudor-style pile in Beverly Hills owned by Emmy-winning Tinseltown writer/producer Max Mutchnick (Will & Grace) and his unfortunately-named husband, Erik Hyman, a partner at a high-powered L.A. law firm.
Back in the fall of 2010 Your Mama made an extensive (but not necessarily complete) catalog Mi ofster Allen’s rather monumental private residential property portfolio so if any of y’all would like more lengthy discussions of the properties we suggest you go here, here, and/or here but allow us here to be somewhat more brief.
Mister Allen, who owns both the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazer sports teams, has long maintained a massive, waterfront compound on Mercer Island, WA, that comprises at no fewer than nine large residences with at least three that claim direct frontage on Lake Washington. Also up in the Pacific Northwest, Mister Allan owns not just one but two private islands in the San Juan Islands chain.** He built an extensive family camp on one of them and had other, the less developed 292-acre Allan Island, up for sale for the last few years. It’s currently listed at $13.5 million.
In Los Angeles, Mister Allen owns an impressive, gated estate in Beverly Hills—it has a funicular-accessed tennis court—as well as The Enchanted Hill, a fabled and much fretted over 24-acre tract of land in the mountains above Beverly Hills where, at one time, he toyed around with building a spectacularly large house. In 2010, like all good real estate ballers with southern California real estate interests, he dropped $25 million for a glassy contemporary on Malibu’s swank Carbon Beach***
Since 1993 Mister Allen has owned the 4,000+acre Teton Ridge Ranch outside of Tetonia, ID, and—we’re not quite sure when—he paid somewhere about $7.5 million for the historic, water front Thurston Estate in Kailua-Kona, HI, and in New York City, Mister Allen maintains a mansion-sized duplex penthouse atop one of the most expensive and exclusive buildings on Fifth Avenue. He reportedly picked up an 18-room, full-floor spread in 1996 for about $14 million and, in the fall of 2011, quietly forked over $25,000,000 in an off-market deal for a 7-ish room penthouse with extensive terracing that practically hover over Central Park.**** Mister Allen’s international holdings are oft reported to include a sizable townhouse in the hoity-toity Holland Park area of London***** as well as a villa in fancy-pants Cap Ferrat in the south of France but we don’t much about that.
Feeling over loaded and/or overwhelmed yet?
In addition to his land-based holdings, Mister Allen maintains a world-class collection of WWII aircraft, a fleet of private jets that include a Gulfstream or two and at least one custom-fitted Boeing 757—he recently sold one of 757s to brash, publicity-seeking billionaire Donald Trump, and two ship-sized yachts. His 303-foot long Tatoosh (above) has five decks, accommodates 24 pampered guest in 10-12 staterooms, and requires a crew of around 35. The mega-mansion sized boat is fitted with a French limestone fireplace in the main salon, a swimming pool with adjustable floor depth, a movie theater and two helipads. Although it no longer appears to on the market, the steel-hulled Tatoosh was put up for sale in 2010 with a $125,000,000 price tag.
Gargantuan and elaborately appointed as Tatoosh is, it’s kind of yachtsman child’s play compared to Octopus, Mister Allen’s other and much bigger, 414-foot long superyacht. Octopus, said to cost close to $400,000 a week to operate and features two helicopter landing pads, seven tenders, a few jet skis, and two submarines. Yep, submarines, and one of them can be operated by remote control. There’s also a swimming pool, a basketball court, and—for his rock star friends—a state-of-the-art recording studio. The Superyachts website shows Octopus can host 26 guests, carries a crew of 57, loads more than 40,000 gallons of fresh water, and requires about 225,000 gallons of fuel to fill up its greedy gas tanks.******
*Atherton was recently pegged by the folk at Forbes as the most expensive zip code in all of the United States with a stratospheric median home price of $6,665,231.
**Some of the children may recall that Speiden Island, a 516-acre island in the San Juans, is currently owned by another multi-billionaire real estate baller, James “Jim” Jannard.
***Other billionaires and near billionaires who own homes along Carbon Beach include Larry Ellison, David Geffen, Haim Saban, Eli Broad, and recent divorcee Jamie McCourt.
****Other residents of the chi-chi co-operative building include: hedge fund fat cat Daniel Nir and his wife, Jill Braufman, who shelled out $29 million for their mid-floor sprawler in 2007; hedge funder Charles Coleman III and his financial services heiress wife, Stephanie, who paid $36,000,000 in 2008 for a Renzo Mongiardino-designed spread previously owned by socialite Veronica Hearst; and pharmaceutical tycoon Howard Solomon who coughed up $25 million in 2004 for his seventh floor spread. We’ve been told by a socially connected acquaintance that Texas-based billionaires Sid and Mercedes Bass also maintain a residence in the building but we don’t claim any other details about that. Anyhoo….
*****Other Holland Park homeowners include Sir Richard Branson, Simon Cowell and Sir Paul McCartney
******According to the Automobile Association’s fuel gauge website, the average price of premium gas in the U.S. yesterday was $3.57. That means if Mister Allen drove Octopus into his local gas station and paid the average price to fill up the 225,000 gallon tanks it would have cost him $803,250. By Your Mama’s rudimentary and rounded off calculations, it would take a minimum wage worker in California, who earns $8.00 an hour, more than 48 years of 40-hour work weeks with no time off for sickness or vacation to earn the equivalent to what it costs Mister Allen to fill up just one of his two mega-yachts with gas.
aerial photo (Mercer Island): Bing
aerial photo (Beverly Hills): Bing
exterior photo (Tatoosh): Fraser Yachts
exterior photo (Octopus): Thorongil via Wikimedia Commons
listing photos (Atherton): Pacific Peninsula Group (via Movoto)