According to the Wall Street Journal, an enormous estate in the Bel Air foothills has sold for a breathtaking $75 million — and the mega-bucks buyer hails from Mainland China.
And indeed, although the grant deed is not yet officially filed, it’s widely known in Platinum Triangle real estate circles that the all-cash buyer is a Chinese billionaire businessman who found his Bel Air dream home in a highly unorthodox manner.
If the urban legends are to be believed, the new owner simply “stumbled across” the Bel Air property one day while idly browsing Zillow, the online real estate database powerhouse. Through the app, he or his realtor contacted the listing agents and finagled a tour of the property, after which he fell even more madly in love. But so the stories go, nobody really took said buyer seriously until he whipped out his checkbook. And, well, the rest is $75 million worth of real estate history.
For those not familiar with the world of high-end real estate, it’s highly unusual for billionaire homebuyers to do their shopping through Zillow or any other real estate app, for that matter. Typically, folks at these financial levels have an entourage of attorneys and assistants to contact the upper-crust realtors via more traditional avenues. The realtors then discreetly show the big-name folks around town, and it’s all very hush-hush and rather dull.
But as they say, brave new world.
So who is the Zillow-scouring new owner? Since the transaction has not yet officially recorded, his identity is not yet certain. But while there are at least two main billionaire names currently being banded about, the majority of rumors say he may (or may not) be Liang “Johnson” Zhang, a man hailing from the Mainland Chinese city of Guangzhou. Zhang is the son of Zhang Li, a Chinese mining and real estate tycoon with a personal net worth of $3.2 billion, according to Forbes.
Whether or not Zhang is the Chinese billionaire buyer in question, he’s already got a well-established appetite for high-end real estate. Earlier this year, according to Italian reports, he splashed exactly €35 million euros (about $39.5 million USD at current currency conversion rates) on a massive hilltop villa in Portofino, directly overlooking the Italian Riviera.
Back in humble Bel Air, the $75 million estate sits on a property once owned by tech tycoon Halsey Minor. In the late aughts, following Minor’s well-publicized financial troubles, the house entered a long, sordid state of vacant neglect. Finally, in 2014, the property transferred for $11 million in a bankruptcy court sale to developer Ardie Tavangarian and his longtime wife Tania.
The Tavangarians spent more than three years and untold millions on a radical overhaul and expansion of the once-abandoned property, culminating in the wildly opulent behemoth seen in this story’s gallery. Though massive and decidedly contemporary in style, the house differs from most other modern L.A. spec-homes by including warm, polished finishes, reasonably intimate rooms, and comfortable-looking furnishings. It actually seems like a real home — albeit a 25,000 sq. ft., bonafide mega-sized home — and not merely another cold, museum-like showpiece.
By early 2018, the Tavangarians had engaged one of the Platinum Triangle’s most successful realtors to quietly market the house as a $100 million pocket listing. Shortly thereafter, Walmart heiress Paige Laurie attempted to buy the nine-figure property — and even initiated escrow — but for unknown reasons, the deal ultimately collapsed. Laurie quickly dropped $41.5 million cash on a different contemporary megamansion, and the original Bel Air broker lost the $100 million listing.
Later that year, the Tavangarians engaged a new team of high-end realtors — Branden and Rayni Williams and Jeff Hyland of Hilton & Hyland — to market the property at a slightly more manageable $88 million.
Although the $75 million sale price is quite hefty, it doesn’t even rank within the top 10 all-time residential real estate deals closed in pricey Los Angeles County. But for records-obsessed readers, this transaction does indeed make history in a different way — the Bel Air estate ranks as the priciest California home ever purchased by a Chinese national, narrowly besting the $74 million that insurance tycoon Zhang Jun spent several years ago on a Holmby Hills palace known as the Carolwood Estate.
And as for the Tavangarians, they’ve already packed up their good real estate fortune and moved on to their latest project — another monster compound set high in the Pacific Palisades Riviera, right next door to Tom Hanks.