You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

WhatsApp Co-Founder Jan Koum Assembles an $80 Million Atherton Compound

Atherton, Calif.
$57 million (land only)
5.6 acres, six separate structures

The leafy California town of Atherton has long garnered fame for its residents, many of whom are among the nation’s wealthiest. In the decades following its 1860s beginnings, when city founder Faxon Atherton and other Gold Rush-rich capitalists chose to build their country estates in the area, Atherton became known as a bastion of quiet old money. But since the turn of the century, the Silicon Valley tech boom has brought in a breed of new hyper-money from Palo Alto and China to town, shocking longtime residents with the ensuing construction boom and still-skyrocketing real estate prices they have engendered. This swarm of youthful billionaires — many of whom employ their own bodyguards and security teams — favor elaborate compounds and high-tech amenities. And there’s perhaps no more extreme example than the home of Jan Koum, the Ukraine-born immigrant who became an overnight multibillionaire in 2014.

When the five-year-old messaging service WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in an unprecedented $19 billion deal, Koum and his co-founder Brian Acton instantly joined the Forbes 400. While both remained at Facebook for a time, they eventually departed — Acton in 2017, Koum the following year — amid reports both men had clashed with Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg over data privacy concerns.

Koum’s goodbye post stated he was leaving Facebook to collect rare air-cooled Porsches and play ultimate Frisbee. And any bonafide car collector — or hardcore frisbee collector, for that matter — needs a fancy garage, so Koum has set about fashioning himself a world-class example.

Over the last four years, Koum has paid $57 million in five separate transactions to assemble a monumentally scaled Atherton compound. All five of the houses he acquired have either been razed entirely and replaced with all-new structures, or radically reimagined. Permits show he has spent an additional $20 million-plus for the site’s multiple new structures, including at least two separate mansions and a state-of-the-art, two-level detached garage that appears to span well over 10,000 square feet — in fact, the garage alone dwarfs some of the neighboring Atherton homes.

Although no high-quality photos of the Koum compound are publicly available, Ferrari apparently snagged a brief tour of the garage last year. And it’s all but certain that the near-$80 million listed in records is merely a very conservative estimate of the cost to complete an estate of these proportions — when landscaping and customization spends are factored in, the total pricetag will likely skew far higher. Upon completion, Koum’s compound will probably be the most expensive Atherton property ever constructed.

For reference, Atherton’s three priciest real estate transactions appear to have occurred between 2011 and 2015. Back in May 2015, a giant spec-built mansion up the road from Koum’s compound transferred for $35.3 million in cash to philanthropist Yasmin Lukatz, a mere three weeks after being listed for sale. (Lukatz is the stepdaughter of multibillionaire casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson.)

In May 2014, a mysterious buyer identified only as a “billionaire Chinese tech CEO” paid exactly $40 million for a 12,636 sq. ft. manor house on one of the city’s most prestigious streets. But the biggest-ever sale went down back in September 2011, when someone paid $53 million for the so-called Pine Brook Estate, a 12-acre spread in central Atherton. Though the buyer — who later spent an additional $23 million to acquire three neighboring properties — has never been publicly named, a deep dive into records reveals the property has multiple indirect links to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

And as for Koum, he also still owns his “starter” Atherton house — a 3,715-square-foot traditional that’s located about a mile from his lavish new compound. He picked up the comparatively puny property back in early 2015, for $8.8 million.

Popular on Variety

More Dirt

  • Ivica Zubac House Mar Vista

    Clippers Star Ivica Zubac Buys Snazzy Modern Home

    Though he’s barely old enough to legally drink, professional dribbler Ivica Zubac recently signed a $28 million deal with the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, becoming the youngest, greenest player in their lineup and debuting to great expectations as the team’s starting center. Thus, just before the upcoming season kicks off, he’s stashed some of that [...]

  • Kim Raver House Venice

    Kim Raver Re-Lists Contemporary Venice Bungalow

    “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Kim Raver and filmmaker Manu Boyer have put their contemporary bungalow in L.A.’s pricy if still somewhat rough-around-the-edges beachside community of Venice back on the market at $2.75 million. The price is well above the not quite $1.75 million they paid in 2006 but considerably lower than the almost $3.7 million they [...]

  • Elijah Wood House Venice

    Elijah Wood Lists Los Angeles Micro-Compound for $2 Million

    Elijah Wood has his micro-compound in L.A.’s Venice neighborhood for sale on the open market at a hair under $2 million. The “Lord of the Rings” alum, co-star of the canceled BBC America series “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and a frequent voice-over actor, has owned the property since 2004 when tax records show it [...]

  • Fred Savage House Bel Air

    Fred Savage Upgrades to Wonderful Bel Air Modern Farmhouse

    “Wonder Years” child star Fred Savage, now an accomplished TV producer and sitcom director (“Modern Family,” “2 Broke Girls,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,”) recently put his lovely Spanish-influenced Mediterranean home in L.A.’s Hancock Park up for sale. But the busy-busy showbiz polyglot is not waiting around for a buyer before making his next real [...]

  • Matthew Katz House Hancock Park

    Verifi CEO Matthew Katz Swipes Into $13 Million Hancock Park Mansion

    The mid-city L.A. neighborhood of Hancock Park is known for its painstakingly preserved historic homes, large lots and graceful architecture, but one of the area’s most infamous properties was — for at least two years — a crater-looking vacant lot on a particularly prestigious street. Graffiti-covered and long neglected, the stalled project was the handiwork [...]

  • Eric Dean Seaton House

    Eric Dean Seaton Lists Hollywood Hills Home

    Prolific television director Eric Dean Seaton, also the creator, writer and publisher of the “Legend of the Mantamaji” graphic novel trilogy and a 2019 Emmy nominee for his directorial efforts on the children-oriented Disney Channel sci-fi series “Mech-X4,” is looking to just about double his money on the sale of a gated home tucked into [...]

  • Carl Panattoni House Newport Coast

    Mega-Developer Carl Panattoni Buys $38 Million Newport Coast Estate

    Though 2019 has mostly been a quiet year for high-end real estate in Orange County, Calif., three eye-catchingly big residential transactions recently closed — or are scheduled to soon close. Billionaire Qualtrics co-founder Jared Smith recently paid $35 million for a brand-new Newport Harbor mansion, and it’s rumored that an even larger Newport Harbor deal [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content