You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

WhatsApp Co-Founder Brian Acton Assembles an $86 Million Palo Alto Compound

Palo Alto, Calif.
$86.3 million
Seven houses totaling 28,490 square feet

When a house in the charming Silicon Valley town of Palo Alto sold for a record-tying $30 million back in 2017, many local real estate professionals expressed shock over the price. The 7,550-square-foot structure, while large and attractive, had been last assessed at a mere $1.5 million and is located in leafy Professorville, a quiet neighborhood near Stanford University not known for excessive displays of wealth. At least one randy naysayer even suggested the recorded price might be a typo, courtesy of a sloshed deputy assessor.

But records confirm the house actually did transfer for the aforementioned $30 million, an amount that remains the most ever paid for a Palo Alto residential property. This in a city home to a slew of Forbes-listed billionaires, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Larry Page and Emerson Collective’s Laurene Powell Jobs.

Some observers speculated that the mysterious buyer — listed in records only as the “Jones Family Trust” — was a developer looking to raze the mansion and subdivide the .95-acre lot. As it turns out, however, that wasn’t the case, though the buyer did indeed demolish the home. Behind the trust is a 47-year-old man named Brian Acton, a very non-developer billionaire. And the $30 million teardown is only one small part of his multi-pronged Palo Alto real estate story.

Over the last five years, Acton has spent a mind-bending collective total of $86.25 million on seven Palo Alto houses, many of them fairly modest abodes and all located on the same discreet Professorville block. Save for one case, all seven of the transactions were inked quietly off-market, without the properties ever having been publicly listed for sale.

Popular on Variety

Fashioning multi-parcel residential compounds is hardly foreign behavior to billionaires in general or even billionaires in Palo Alto — Zuckerberg, Page and Powell Jobs have also purchased some of their neighbors’ homes. But Acton’s case stands out as an anomaly. With several of these properties, it appears he may have paid double, or even triple, their actual market value. And the total price point — nearly $90 million for the land alone — easily exceeds the amount paid by any of his fellow local billionaires.

In 2009, Acton co-founded the WhatsApp messaging service with his business partner Jan Koum. By 2014, the app had 600 million active users worldwide. When the company was sold to Facebook that same year for an unprecedented $19 billion, both founders became billionaires several times over. Acton remained with WhatsApp for a time, but had a very public falling-out with Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg over concerns about data privacy and disagreements on how to properly monetize the platform. In early 2018, as the Cambridge Analytica data scandal unfolded, Acton tweeted #DeleteFacebook — unsurprisingly, things between him and his former company have remained frosty since.

Still, Acton has clearly not let any tension drive him from Palo Alto, where his compound is located just one mile from Zuckerberg’s multi-structure estate. What the up-and-coming philanthropist — he recently established the Signal Foundation, endowing it with $50 million of his own funds — plans to do with his properties is unknown.

Nearly all of Acton’s seven homes remain visibly unaltered, save for the largest structure — the $30 million mansion — which was recently demolished and is set to be replaced by a contemporary residence. But it’s a safe bet not all of his Palo Alto neighbors will receive a housewarming invite.

More Dirt

  • Courtney Kemp House Los Angeles

    The Swishers Sell $8.7 Million L.A. Mansion to 'Power' Creator Courtney Kemp

    Shortly before they picked up a $6 million estate in the mountains above Beverly Hills — within a guarded community famous for its high-profile residents — actor Joanna Garcia Swisher and her retired pro baseball player husband Nick Swisher quietly sold their former house in L.A.’s historic Windsor Square neighborhood. While the transaction was consummated off-market, [...]

  • Marg Helgenberger House

    ‘CSI’s’ Marg Helgenberger Buys and Sells in Los Angeles

    “CSI” alum Marg Helgenberger is on the move. Earlier this year the television and film veteran, currently a co-star on the primetime legal drama “All Rise,” sold her longtime residence in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood in a clandestine, off-market transaction valued at $8 million. Since then, she’s sealed the deal on the $4.5 million purchase of [...]

  • Chandler Parsons House Los Angeles

    Chandler Parsons Bounces Into Anthony Zuiker’s Malibu Estate

    Anthony Zuiker, creator of the sprawling, lucratively syndicated “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” television franchise, has sold a comfortably plush, Zen-modern estate in the mansion-dotted foothills above Malibu’s Escondido Beach for $9.25 million and property records reveal the new owner as 31-year-old NBA star Chandler Parsons. Though the sale price is a smidgen under the last [...]

  • Olivia Culpo House Los Angeles

    Olivia Culpo Snags Slick Encino Transitional Home

    In case you hadn’t heard, social media influencing is now big business. Just ask Olivia Culpo, the Rhode Island native who parlayed her initial success with beauty pageants into a multimillion-dollar career as a fashion influencer. The former Miss USA and Miss Universe has racked up exceedingly lucrative brand deals with the likes of DSW, [...]

  • Troy Van Leeuwen House Los Angeles

    Troy Van Leeuwen Picks Up Suburban Home

    Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwan has shelled out a smidgen more than $2.3 million for a family-sized home in the somewhat far-flung and relatively unsung L.A. suburb of Woodland Hills. Secured behind gates and privately positioned on a flat plateau high above the street, the vine-encrusted Mediterranean residence measures in at [...]

  • Saoirse Ronan House Ireland

    Saoirse Ronan Sells Irish Seaside Hideaway

    One of Hollywood’s most in-demand young actors, three-time Oscar-nominated “Little Women” star Saoirse Ronan, has sold her fully rehabbed hideaway in the quaint seaside town of Greystones, about 20 miles south of Dublin in Ireland’s County Wicklow. The just under $2.1 million sale price is a good bit more than the slightly above $1.8 million [...]

  • Bridgit Mendler House Los Angeles

    Bridgit Mendler Has Good Luck on Sale in Silver Lake

    Film and TV star Bridgit Mendler, quietly married a couple months ago to longtime boyfriend Griffin Cleverly, has sold her home in the hills of L.A.’s über-hip Silver Lake area for a sliver under $2 million. Best known for her lead roles on Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie” and, more recently, the short-lived NBC primetime sitcom [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content