'Homeless billionaire' Nicolas Berggruen wins Hearst estate auction with $63.1-million bid

Nicolas Berggruen, a real estate investor who has earned the nickname "Homeless Billionaire" due to his jet-set lifestyle and lack of a permanent address, has just spent $ 63.1 million on the Hearst property in Beverly Hills and the coveted one Property won in a bankruptcy auction was more competitive than some expected.
The co-founder of the think tank Berggruen Institute prevailed on Tuesday in the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and in the US courthouse in downtown Los Angeles in a heated auction of around 45 minutes against five other bidders.
Twenty-four people - the bidders along with lawyers and agents - huddled into the courtroom and a few others were watching the action on a monitor in an overflow room, said Anthony Marguleas of Amalfi Estates, who kept the listing on the property.
The tender started at $ 48 million - $ 1 million more than Berggruen's original bid, which was accepted by seller, attorney Leonard Ross, in August. The accepted offer sparked a Chapter 7 bankruptcy sale through an auction, the proceeds of which will be used to pay off the approximately $ 50 million debt Ross amassed on the property after failing to sell the home in years.
With bids increasing in $ 100,000 increments, all but two bidders were eliminated around the $ 52 million mark: Berggruen and MBRG Investors, a West Hollywood real estate investment company, are recorded.
Berrgruen's $ 63.1 million knockdown is the top-selling home at auction, beating an Italian-inspired mansion in Beverly Park that sold for $ 51 million this year.
It's a record-breaking sale, but still a long way from the $ 195 million Ross originally wanted for the property. It set the ambitious price tag after selling the Playboy Mansion at $ 100 million in 2016, but years of new listings and price cuts brought it back to $ 69.95 million earlier this year.
Like William Randolph Hearst's other home - the famous San Simeon castle - the Beverly Hills Hearst estate precedes it. Not only was it tied to the newspaper tycoon, but it was also considered a honeymoon spot for President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1950s. The countless films include "The Godfather" and "The Bodyguard" as well as Beyoncé's 2020 visual album "Black Is King".
Built in 1926, the salmon-colored venue was designed by Gordon Kaufmann, the prolific architect behind the Hoover Dam, Greystone Mansion, and the Hollywood Palladium. He designed it for the local banker Milton Getz.
Spanning 9,000 square feet, the Mediterranean mansion captures the spirit of Old Hollywood glitz and glamor, with 7-foot-high hand-painted ceilings, a two-story paneled library, two screening rooms, and an Art Deco nightclub with a bar inspired by Hugh Hefners . The now defunct nightclub Touch was saved. There is a stone fireplace in the billiard room that was pulled down from Hearst Castle.
Elsewhere there are nine bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, and large public areas that can accommodate 1,000 guests. The 3.5-acre site also includes two guest apartments, a pool house, tennis pavilion, and five-bedroom gatehouse that sits between patios, lawns, waterfalls, and an Olympic pool lit by vintage lampposts.
“You can't build a house that big in Beverly Hills, and it's very rare to get 3.5 acres,” Hilton & Hyland's Gary Gold, a Hilton & Hyland agent, told the Times in August.
There have been 71 inquiries, 41 private screenings, and 12 written offers since the property went up for sale in April for $ 89.75 million. Marguleas and Gold held the listing with Zizi Pak and John Gould of Rodeo Realty.
The investor and philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen, who was photographed high above Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood in 2016, just bought the Hearst property. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
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Born in France, Berggruen founded his private investment company Berggruen Holdings in 1984 and also founded the independent think tank Berggruen Institute in 2010.
He is no stranger to Southern California and bought 450 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains in 2015 with the aim of building a headquarters for the think tank. Forbes puts his net worth at $ 1.7 billion.
The institute annually awards a one million US dollar prize "for great achievements in the further development of ideas that shape the world".
The estate is the newest valued property to enter the auction block due to bankruptcy. The owners of the mountain, a 15-acre lot in Beverly Hills that is touted as the prettiest piece of vacant land in the city, ran up $ 200 million in debt on the property, which resulted in it being foreclosed in Pomona for 100,000 US dollars was sold.
Two other high profile bankruptcy sales come from Bel-Air. Until September 27, offers will be accepted for Mohamed Hadid's infamous hillside house, which had to be demolished by a judge who declared the 30,000-square-meter mansion a "public hazard". The sales proceeds go towards the destruction of the house and the winner receives the raw land.
Across the hill from Hadid's apartment, Nile Niami owes more than $ 110 million for The One, a 100,000-square-foot mega-mansion he is trying to sell for $ 500 million. A court appointed bankruptcy trustee prepares it for sale.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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