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Liongate Revisited, Again

WHAT: Liongate
WHERE: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $65,000,000
SIZE: 24,000 (or so) square feet, 11 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms (total)

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: The well-informed property gossips at the Wall Street Journal announced this week that Liongate,* a mildly pedigreed and recently overhauled estate in a super-prime pocket of L.A.’s swanky East Gate Bel Air area, was put up for sale with a eyebrow raising and pearls clutching $65,000,000 price tag.

The listing agent declined to identify the sellers but did tattle to the peeps at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that they’re “European” and “purchased the home for personal use.” She went on to say the sellers are selling because “they haven’t spent as much time in Los Angeles as they planned.” Naturally, Your Mama questioned a select couple of our better connected contacts in the Platinum Triangle and within minutes of our query we were pinged by ever-vigilant real estate yenta Yolanda Yakkityyak who swears on the life of her beloved pharmacist that the seller is a Switzerland-based entrepreneur named Raoul Walter who, until 2011, owned a couple dozen upscale fitness clubs in Geneva, Zürich and Brussels. Make of that what you will.

The original residence was built in the late 1930s and designed by legendary architect Paul Revere Williams. We don’t know who it was built for or if it was an important Paul Williams house but we do know the house and property were substantially altered by country music mandarin Kenny Rogers who bought the 1.63 acre estate in 1979. It was he, so the reportage goes, who added the carved stone lions that stand sentry on either side of the driveway gates and give the estate its current moniker.

According to the Platinum Triangle real estate page turner Unreal Estate, Mister Rogers soon brought in Cher’s decorator, Ron Wilson, who instituted a complete makeover that required some hillside engineering derring do and included a theatrical injection of architectural folly and pizazz. One side of the hillside below the house was carved out to accommodate a tennis court and the other cut away for a semi-subterranean living space accessed by a steel and glass outdoor elevator. That’s right, a steel and glass outdoor elevator. How deliciously and absolutely ludicrous a thing is that to have, children, a steel and glass outdoor elevator in the backyard?. It’s pitiful and glorious all at the same time. It means nothing but says everything. If there isn’t there should be a pitch perfect and probably very long German word that encompasses all of those things—pitiful and glorious, nothing and everything. Anyways….

In the late 1980s Liongate was acquired by oil and showbiz heiress Nancy Davis, a woman known in some circles—so says the ever-reliable Wikipedia—as Nicole Richie’s godmother. Ironically enough, Mister Rogers sold Liongate because he’d purchased The Knoll, a much more grand, 10-acre estate in Beverly Hills that he would later sell—Tuh-Duh!—to Nancy Davis’s parents, Denver-based oil mogul turned Tinseltown power broker Marvin Davis and his philanthropically engaged wife Barbara. (The current owners of The Knoll, discount tool tycoon Eric Smidt and wife Susan, recently listed their former, Tuscan village-like compound in Beverly Park on the market for $45 million. But, we digress…)

As far as this property gossip know, Miz Davis first and unsuccessfully attempted to unload Liongate in 2006 when it was reported in the L.A. Times (link not available) to be listed for nearly $30 million. Your Mama first (dissed and) discussed Liongate in April 2007 when it was back on the market for $23,950,000. By July 2009 the asking price had plummeted to $14,995,000 and, finally, in March 2010 the European buyer (and apparent flipper)—who Yolanda swears is the low profile fitness club fella from Switzerland—snagged the property for $12,200,000.

Over the next three years the entire estate, residence and grounds, was given a soup-to-nuts, spare-no-expense overhaul and expansion under the direction of L.A.-based architect Dean Larkin. The ever-so-soigne decorative treatment was conceived and installed by L.A.-based interior designer Kirk Nix of KNA Design.

(P.S. The $65 million asking price includes all the furniture selected and/or commissioned by Mister Nix. Naturally, a home automation system was installed along with Fort Knox-style security measures. Listing details declare the estate can be transferred with a fully trained staff but if not a detailed estate operation manual will be provided for newbie hires.)

Digital marketing materials show the freshly refurbished and expanded three-plus story mansion and all its attached and detached accessory spaces encompass about 24,000 square feet with six fireplaces and a total of 11 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms. The WSJ parsed those figures to “nine bedrooms and 14 bathrooms” with an additional two bedrooms and three bathrooms planned for a still-to-be-built attached guest house.

On the floor plan included with publicly accessible digital marketing materials Your Mama counted five bedrooms and six full and two half bathrooms on the upper two floors of the three-plus story mansion plus an additional two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms in the still-to-be-built attached guest house. Simple calculations on Your Mama’s bejeweled abacus show that comes to seven bedrooms and eight full and three half bathrooms so that means there are an additional four bedrooms and half a dozen full and/or half bathrooms spread hither and thither throughout the remainder of the estate.

An Old School elegant grey flagstone driveway lined with carefully trimmed trees swoops gently down to a flag stone motor court. A wide, high-gloss ebony door set into a regal arched pediment opens to a marble floored foyer and gallery that balloons open to an elegantly proportioned if somewhat eccentrically shaped formal living room where there are more inlaid marble floors and no fewer than seven sets of French doors lined up along a gently bowed wall through which there’s a peek-a-boo, over the tree tops city view.

Just off the foyer/gallery, in the west wing, a cozy, motor court view library has a fireplace with (probably antique) carved marble mantelpiece and is lined with custom milled book shelves. Beyond the library a double-sided fireplace divides a pair of larger adjoining rooms, one a den and the other a billiard/game room with circular bar.

On the east side of the foyer, in addition to a generous formal dining room, a bounteous butler’s pantry with walk-in china and stemware closets, and a pair of back-to-back powder rooms, there’s a double-island kitchen with (stunning) chevron pattern distressed (and probably antique) wood floors. The kitchen (along with the chevron pattern wood flooring) flows unimpeded into a circular breakfast nook and casual lounge area with fireplace. Floor plans indicate there’s an open niche with built-in desks just off the kitchen that passes through to a dedicated security office that, in turn, has direct access to the breezeway that separates the front motor court from the rear motor court and garages.

Our gin-sotted eyes spotted three separate staircases that connect the public and semi-private rooms on main level to the private family quarters upstairs. Each of the three, spacious guest/family bedroom suites in the west wing of the upper level has a walk-in closet, large bathroom, and private terrace while a more modest, fourth guest/family bedroom in the east wing does have a private attached bathroom but does not have a walk-in closet or private outdoor space. The remainder of the mansion’s east wing is devoted entirely to a 3,600 square foot master suite. A long, angled gallery links the various and far-flung areas of the master suite that include a central bedroom with fireplace and sitting area and, at opposite ends of the suite his and her bathrooms with adjoining walk-in closets.

Online marketing materials reveal the still-to-be-built attached guest wing is scheduled to be completed in September 2014 and floor plans included with listing information show the two-story addition will include a ground level lounge just off the motor court with kitchenette and half bathroom. Was this room designed to be used as a break room by the estate’s domestic staff and/or as a waiting lounge for chauffeurs and personal assistants of visitors? You decide. A separate entrance opens to a foyer with stairway that curves tightly up to a large living room area and two bedrooms, each with walk-in closet and private bathroom.

There is a lower, daylight basement level of the house and that may or may not be where the mansion’s state-of-the-art 12-seat home theater and wine cellar with refrigerated wine storage room are located. At least three sets of exterior stairs link the wrought iron railed stone terraces that extend off the rear of the main floor living spaces to the lower level recreation and entertainment areas. A deep and wide loggia with outdoor fireplace and kitchen over looks a dark bottom swimming pool, a separate spa, and built-in fire pit. Off to the west a patch of flat grass looks just about big enough for a couple of medium sized dog to really get their run on.

Opposite the house, on the other side of the swimming pool, a kooky glass roofed pavilion protects and proclaims entrance the aforementioned steel and glass outdoor elevator. One level down the elevator doors open directly into a well-equipped wood floored fitness room and adjoining spa area with sauna, steam, and massage room. Also on this level, there’s (exterior) access to the tennis court and a fairly petite ballroom—it’s more like a birthday party sized room—with more of those gorgeous chevron pattern wood floors plus a large and professionally equipped bar. Three sets of French doors in the—ahem—ballroom open to tree top level Juliet balconies. The elevator descends at least one more level where there’s a secondary entrance to the estate from the street below.

Any of the better connected real estate insiders care to fill Your Mama in on the short list of buyers currently sniffing around Los Angeles in the $50 million price range who might like a peek at and poke around this opulently dressed piece of Platinum Triangle palatiality? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

*In 2007 the estate in question was referred to as Lionsgate, with an “s” in the middle. It’s also repeatedly called Lionsgate—again with the “s”—in Michael Gross’s Unreal Estate. However, puppies, current marketing materials drop the “s” and call it Liongate and, indeed, the plaque affixed to the front gate also identifies it as Liongate, without the “s.” So there you have it. You say toe-may-toe, we say toe-maw-toe, right? Ugh.

listing photos and floor plan: Hilton & Hyland

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