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Nine of L.A.’s Most Lavish Unknown Estates

In a town practically synonymous with flash, it’s hardly shocking that the well-to-do residential neighborhoods are among the most famously ostentatious in all the world. The 90210 zip code is iconic, and nearly the entire globe — or at least those who care about such extravagance — is familiar with the Manor, the titanic Holmby Hills megamansion built by Aaron Spelling in the 1980s and featured on a 2011 HGTV special. Recently sold for a California record $120 million to an anonymous foreign buyer, those White House-sized digs are a staple of Hollywood star tours.

And many avid L.A. real estate aficionados surely know the Anthony Pritzker compound, a 53,000 sq. ft. contemporary extravaganza in the hills, the Knoll, tool tycoon Eric Smidt’s Beverly Hills palace, and Gary Winnick’s legendary Casa Encantada in Bel Air. As some of L.A.’s larges homes, gallons of ink have already been spilled on each of them.

Today, however, let’s briefly check out some outrageous unknown homes — beastly compounds carefully hidden from the public behind gates, towering hedges, many effusively secured by armed guards. All of these properties have been in the same families for at least two decades — some much longer — and haven’t been on the market since the dawn of the internet, making them heretofore exempt by real estate journalistic dissection and virtually unknown to the general public. Though none of these nine properties are as large or ridiculously gaudy as the Manor, they’re all equally impressive — and just as shockingly extravagant — in their own manner. Take a look.

 

  1. Arsenio Hall’s Hilltop Shangri-La, Topanga

Arsenio Hall House

Few people know that former talk show host Arsenio Hall has long owned a sprawling compound tucked deep into a rugged and uber-remote part of the Santa Monica mountains, about halfway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley.

The 30+ acre, then-vacant property was acquired by the Cleveland, Ohio native in the early 1990s, just after his eponymous TV show entered a highly lucrative nationally syndicated run. Records reveal that Hall subsequently spent many millions of dollars developing a resort-like estate completely surrounded by towering walls and barbed-wire fences.

There’s a custom-built, vaguely Santa Fe-style main mansion with more than 10,000 square feet of living space that could easily pass as a modern recreation of the Enterprise Starship. And scattered around the premises are at least two structures of unknown purpose, along with miles of hiking trails, a full-size putt-putt golf course, a tennis court, and numerous other recreational amenities — built-in playsets, grassy lawns, a pergola-shaded pond, and much more.

2. Miky Lee’s Futureland, Beverly Hills Post Office

There are “Crazy Rich Asians” and then there is South Korea’s Lee family.

According to Forbes, members of the Samsung-rich Lee dynasty sport a cumulative $30 billion to their names and remain Asia’s wealthiest family. “Do bigger things,” indeed. The clan’s diverse business interests, now mostly controlled by the third generation, run the gamut from food production to electronics, from automobiles to real estate. And then there’s the Lee media empire.

In the mid-90s, Miky Lee — the eldest grandchild of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul — learned that David Geffen, Steven Spielberg, and Jeffrey Katzenberg were seeking investors to help get their fledgling film studio off the ground. One meeting with the trio of Hollywood hotshots convinced Lee, and she subsequently provided their startup studio, Dreamworks SKG, with a $300 million cash infusion. In return, she received Dreamworks distribution rights for nearly all of Asia, a deal that would later prove inordinately lucrative indeed.

Years later, Katzenberg — who struck up a close friendship with Lee that continues to this day — would comment, “Nineteen years ago, when [we] started Dreamworks, there were really two people who made that dream come true, one of which is Miky Lee.” And Lee, already a billionaire heiress, created another fortune for herself in media, where her CJ family company now controls South Korea’s highest-rated cable network and the country’s largest multiplex chain.

Around the same time as her colossal Dreamworks investment, Lee decided to put down permanent real estate roots in Los Angeles. She began construction on an epic dream compound high above Beverly Hills, directly overlooking the cartoonishly opulent Beverly Park community. Known as “Futureland,” her 8+ acre estate was allegedly modeled as a residential version of Everland, South Korea’s largest theme park (built and owned by her family’s Samsung group, naturally).

Built by megamansion specialists JD Group, Futureland was completed around the turn of the century and includes two Mediterranean-style mansions: one spanning nearly 12,000 square feet, the other with approximately 6,000. Both have infinity-edged swimming pools, including one that is partially indoors. There’s also a full-size tennis court atop the roof of the smaller mansion — yes, a tennis court above the house — and garage parking for at least ten exotic vehicles. But that’s not nearly enough space for Lee, a noted exotic car collector. Recent aerial images show she recently completed construction on a new detached garage on Futureland’s grounds, with space for 10+ more vehicles.

Other features of the estate include a private guardhouse — the property is always patrolled by off-duty LAPD officers — off-street parking for a hundred or more vehicles, golf putting greens, and dozens of mature trees. And then there are the views, which sweep over Coldwater and Benedict Canyons, the San Fernando Valley, and summit at the Pacific Ocean — on a clear day, of course.

Lee, who holds dual American and South Korean citizenship, reportedly spends the majority of her time living in the sprawling 90210 digs, which have never been offered for sale but are likely worth many tens of millions.

3. Berry Gordy’s Motown Mansion, Bel Air

Berry Gordy House

For over 40 years, this sprawling 1930s mansion in prime Bel Air has been home to Berry Gordy, the octogenarian founder of Motown Records and longtime Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member. Previously, the property was home to Red Skelton, who reportedly passed on inside the 10,000 sq. ft. house itself. Beyond that, the stately home’s history is murky, but it remains one of the more grand historic Bel Air mansions still standing.

In addition to the main property, the Detroit native also owns four additional contiguous parcels on the same cul-de-sac. The entire six-acre estate includes two additional guest/staff structures, multiple swimming pools and sports courts, and terraced lawns and gardens. Today, the hilltop property ranks as one of the most expansive compounds in the posh immediate neighborhood and could be worth $50 million.

4. Emilio Azcarraga’s Hacienda, Hollywood Hills

Emilio Azcarraga House Los Angeles

This particular estate attracts attention not merely for its plus-size measurements — at 12,000 square feet of living space on 2.3 acres, the property is certainly large but not quite mega — but also for its unusual location. It sits directly adjacent to the oft-congested Sunset Strip and across the street from a towering apartment building.

Before the current mansion was built, the property was the site of the Sunset Plaza Apartments, a Paul R. Williams-designed deluxe apartment building that became known for its Golden Age celebrity inhabitants — Harry Cohn, Mary Boland and Tommy Dorsey among them.

In the 1980s, Mexican media tycoon Emilio “El Tigre” Azcarraga Milmo acquired the property and controversially leveled the fabled apartment building, which had previously been labeled a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. He then raised even more eyebrows by constructing a sprawling private residence in its stead, a “pre-Renaissance” style abode with inlaid wood and arched windows.

Following Azcarraga’s 1997 death, the house was listed on the open market at $16 million. Ultimately, however, the property did not sell and today remains in the Azcarraga family — his son and principal heir, multibillionaire Emilio Azcarraga Jean, reportedly uses the estate as a part-time vacation home.

5. Peril at Maharajji House, Malibu

Prem Rawat House Malibu

In 1960s India, a young boy named Prem Rawat shot to fame on claims he could impart direct knowledge of God to others. Also known as “Maharajji” by his followers, the pre-adolescent child began giving speeches on knowledge and inner peace. Soon he had amassed millions of devotees in his native country, and crafted an empire through the Divine Light Mission organization. As a teenager, the already enormously rich Rawat traveled to the West, where he married a much older American woman and eventually settled in California.

Now in his early 60s, Rawat maintains a loyal cabal of followers — most in his native India — and continues to embark on worldwide speaking tours. And he now resides primarily on a 30+ acre property situated in a remote, hilltop area of Malibu that he’s owned for over 40 years.

Exact details are frustratingly scant, but the flat-roofed, multi-winged manor has approximately 21,000 square feet of living space and garage parking for 10+ automobiles. It famously includes a helicopter landing pad, through which has Rawat has previously run afoul of the authorities for allegedly landing one of his two choppers on the premises without the proper permits and such.

6. Igor Greenberg Compound, Beverly Hills Post Office

Igor Greenberg House Beverly Hills

Custom-built by elusive Russian-born businessman Igor Greenberg in the early aughts, this humongous faux-French megamansion looms ominously over Benedict Canyon, its towering retaining walls visible for miles around. Never before on the market, rumors say the 20,000+ sq. ft. monster compound contains a double staircase with gold leaf banisters and a blood-red formal dining room.

7. Jay Paley Residence / Barron Hilton Estate, Holmby Hills

Jay Paley House Beverly Hills

While certainly not as relatively “unknown” as other properties on this list — it’s catalogued in the Historic Places L.A. journal and was included in the Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills coffee table book — the so-called Jay Paley estate was included in this story because it hasn’t been on the market for decades — and it’s certainly architecturally notable in a way most other homes here are not.

Designed by Paul R. Williams and built for wealthy dilettante Jay Paley at a reputed cost of $100,000 — a massive amount of money in the 1930s — the superb Colonial Revival-meets-Hollywood Regency-style structure sports a mosaic-tiled pool and adjacent poolhouse that were featured on the cover of a 1933 issue of Architectural Digest. The home is also known as the so-called Colby mansion, the property used in the ’80s-era TV show “The Colbys.”

For decades up to the present day, the extravagant 15,000 sq. ft. manse has been home to Barron Hilton Jr., the 91-year-old son of Hilton Hotels founder Conrad Hilton.

8. Jill Tavelman’s Waverly Mansion, Beverly Hills

Jill Tavelman House Beverly Hills

Another property mostly unknown to the public but certainly familiar to astute architecture lovers — the Beverly Hills landmark known as the Waverly Mansion. Invisible behind tall hedges and built in 1926 by silent film moguls Al and Charles Christie, the English Tudor-style pile sits on a heavily wooded 4.5-acre lot right atop Sunset Boulevard.

Owned for more than 30 years by Jill Tavelman, the second ex-wife of British crooner Phil Collins and a noted preservationist, the property has been the site of swanky Los Angeles Conservancy benefit galas. And back in 2016, Tavelman paid $12.5 million for the John Elgin Woolf-designed Hollywood Regency house next door in order to save the property from being demolished by developers.

9. Haim Saban’s Palatial Compound, Beverly Park

Haim Saban House Beverly Hills

No list of lavish L.A. megamansions would be complete without at least one entry from Beverly Park, SoCal’s most exclusive — and most notoriously opulent — gated community. Take the village-like home of Haim Saban, the Egypt-born media mogul who practically invented “Power Rangers” and founded Saban Entertainment.

The 5.7-acre Saban estate, while not exactly unknown to moneyed politicos — it’s previously played host to lavish fundraisers for the likes of Hillary Clinton — has never been on the market. Built in the mid-1990s on an apparently limitless budget, the triple-gated French chateau-style complex features three separate structures: a 22,000 sq. ft main house and two other abodes of 2,300 and 3,300 square feet, respectively, the latter of which reportedly serves as the residence of his wife’s parents.

The exceedingly verdant compound includes winding walking paths, dozens of mature trees, emerald-green lawns, full-size tennis court, and at least three motorcourts capable of accommodating dozens of vehicles altogether..

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