The Real Estate Hijinks and Highlights of LA’s 5 Richest People

01.26.2015 | Blog

The five richest people in Los Angeles (according to the LA Business Journal [sub. req.]) come from all walks of life: they are rich doctors, rich developers, rich entertainment executives, and more. Altogether they’re worth about $29 billion according to the LABJ and Google calculator (or something like 500 million times the net worth of all of Echo Park). So of course they get up to some delightful real estate exploits. Let’s take a look:

5. Ron Burkle
Burkle made his money in supermarkets (he’s worth $4.5 billion) and is maybe best known for partying with Bill Clinton on his private jet. His famously opulent Beverly Hills house, Greenacres, has hosted a ridiculous number of Democratic fundraisers and for a while there had a room designated just for Bill. In an account in a recent profile in the New Yorker (sub. req.), the then-president said one night “How is it that when I come out to this house, and all this splendor, when I get back on the plane I feel like I’m going back to public housing?” The same story says Burkle paid $17.5 million for the house in the early ’90s (other sources vary by a few million dollars). Greenacres was originally built in 1929 by silent film star Harold Lloyd and is notorious as perhaps the most over-the-top movie star estate of all time–it covered 15 acres and included the main mansion (designed by Sumner Spaulding), a golf course, a stream stocked with fish, stables, an open-air theater, and an enormous swimming pool. It was subdivided in the late ’70s, but the mansion was sold on a smaller lot.

Burkle also owns another very famous property, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House in Los Feliz (seen in Blade Runner and a million other movies). He bought the house in 2011 for $4.5 million after guaranteeing a construction loan (the Ennis’s textile blocks are very difficult to maintain).

4. David Geffen

David Geffen, who founded Geffen Records and DreamWorks SKG, is worth $4.8 billion, and he would like all of you plebs to please stay away from his beach, ok? He waged a delightful/infuriating battle for decades with the California Coastal Commission over allowing public access by his compound on Carbon Beach (part of the beach is guaranteed public by state law). According to a 2005 NY Times story, “Mr. Geffen had agreed to allow a pathway to run alongside his property in 1983 in exchange for state permission to add a swimming pool and other expansions. But in 2002 he filed a lawsuit to fight the public’s right to gain access to the beach at that spot.” Finally in 2007, Geffen agreed to open up part of the beach in exchange for a 10-foot privacy buffer. Geffen also appears to own a place on Angelo Drive in Beverly Hills.

In other amusements, there’s the story of Geffen and Cher trying to forcibly move Sonny Bono out of the historic Owlwood estate in the 1970s.

3. Kirk Kerkorian

Kerkerorian started out as one of the most important early developers/landowners in Las Vegas (he’s also owned MGM and parts of several car companies) and is worth $5.2 billion. He owned a drama-plagued estate in Benedict Canyon at various times–he sold it to Sylvester Stallone in 1990, then bought it back from him in 1997, and Sonny Bono owned part of it at one time. Kerkorian changed the address to slip it into the 90210 zip code, then eventually attempted to sell the 30-acre property (with three houses, two tennis courts, and a putting green) in the mid-aughts for $25 million. He eventually did offload it, although it’s not clear for how much. One house hosted season three of the Bad Girls Club and one eventually caught on fire. Kerkorian appears to still own a mansion on Beverly Hills’s North Roxbury Drive.

2. Eli Broad

LA’s foremost philanthropist/museum-builder made his money building suburban developments with KB Home and is worth $6.6 billion. The ever-reliable Real Estalker reports that “his primary residence is a 10,090 square foot Frank Gehry designed mansion on Oakmont Drive–arguably Brentwood’s most exclusive residential street,” and that he also owns a Richard Meier in Malibu (near Geffen’s house). In 2009, W visited the Brentwood house for an Art Basel party: visitors entered “through a private sculpture park, then entered a sitting room the size of a hotel lobby before descending a stairway into a series of double-height galleries. ‘This is bigger than the Gagosian Gallery,’ said fashion-world fixture Richard Buckley as he arrived at the first subterranean white cube, with its cranelike Calder sculpture and pair of giant Chuck Close portraits.” It apparently also houses one of those enormous metal Richard Serra sculptures.

1. Patrick Soon-Shiong

Perenially richest guy Soon-Shiong is a doctor who made his fortune in pharmaceuticals; he’s worth $8 billion as of last spring. He’s been pissing off a quiet “upper-middle-class” area of Brentwood (below Sunset!) for the past few years with his construction of a roughly three-acre compound. Soon-Shiong lived in the neighborhood when he was merely rich (not superrich) and in 2006 he started buying up house after house, eventually laying down about $29 million. Back in 2010, the LA Times reported that “crews have been moving dirt, filling in pools and erecting building frames. Trees have been uprooted and moved to other locations. One immense wood-sided hole appears to reflect the footprint of a planned 3,300-square-foot basement … part of an addition to an existing single-family home that would grow to 18,000 square feet.” Meanwhile, more neighbors said that they’d rejected offers to sell to agents believed to be representing Soon-Shiong. Construction back then was estimated to take several years, but meanwhile Soon-Shiong and his family were living “amid it all on a 0.6-acre property.”

by Adrian Glick Kudler