October 4, 2022

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Real Estate newsletter: A Disney billionaire’s $225-million compound

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, where the spring market is seeing prized properties surface from celebrities both dead and alive.

Let’s start with the living. The first is Michael Eisner, the former Walt Disney Company chief executive who’s shopping around his Malibu estate for $225 million. He’s been compiling the compound for more than two decades, and if he gets his price (or anything close), it’ll be the most expensive home sale in California history.

What makes a house like that so valuable? Two things: the size and the secrecy. The five-acre spread includes nine structures, which is virtually unmatched — even in a community as affluent as Malibu. It also sits above Watkins Cove, an ultra-exclusive beach that’s extremely difficult for the public to access due to the tides. History has shown us time and time again that billionaires will go to great lengths to avoid interacting with the public.

The other notable seller is Madonna, who’s asking $26 million for a Hidden Hills mansion that she bought from The Weeknd just last year for $19.3 million. It’s an ambitious ask, especially considering that she didn’t put much work into the property besides converting the barn into a gym and Pilates studio.

Our aforementioned posthumous listing comes from legendary comedian Betty White, whose longtime home in Brentwood surfaced for sale at $10.575 million.

It’s White’s second property to hit the market since she died in December at 99. In March, her beach house in Carmel-by-the-Sea soldfor $10.775 million.

We also checked in on Orange County, where the market just hit a staggering benchmark that Los Angeles County has never achieved. As of March, the median sales price for a home there reached $1 million, making it the first county in Southern California to achieve that lofty number. Like most housing news over the last few years, it’s great for sellers and brutal for buyers.

Spring is a time for metamorphosis. Dormant plants wear brand new blossoms, leaves return to barren trees, and a former bastion of journalism turns into a military technology operation. At least that’s what happening in Orange County, where the former L.A. Times complex is now occupied by a defense contractor that designs drones. It’s a stark contrast, and we paused to reflect on the jarring change.

While catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Longtime Disney chief chases a record

The five-acre spread include nine structures, as well as a cliff-side elevator that descends to the beach.

(Anthony Barcelo)

Michael Eisner is chasing a record on the bluffs of Malibu, listing his prized oceanfront compound for $225 million. If he gets his price, it’ll be the most expensive home sale in California history.

Eisner, a media mogul who served as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. from 1984 to 2005, has been assembling the compound for more than two decades. Records show he bought the first piece in the 1990s and has added at least four adjacent parcels in the years since.

The $225-million price tag is nearly $50 million higher than the current California sale record, which was set last year when billionaire Marc Andreessen dropped $177 million on a compound of his own — also in Malibu. The U.S. record belongs to hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who paid $238 million for a New York City penthouse in 2019.

Madonna eyes a quick flip

The three-acre compound includes a 12,500-square-foot home, guesthouse, barn and basketball court.

The three-acre compound includes a 12,500-square-foot home, guesthouse, barn and basketball court.

(Google Earth)

The Queen of Pop is trying her hand at flipping a house. A year after buying The Weeknd’s Hidden Hills mansion for $19.3 million, Madonna is shopping it around for $26 million.

Interior photos are scarce, so it’s unclear how many changes Madonna made to justify a $6.7-million price increase. The only confirmed upgrade is the barn, which the pop star turned into a gym and Pilates studio.

Spanning three acres, the amenity-loaded compound offers plenty to do both inside and out. The estate’s centerpiece is a 12,500-square-foot showplace built in 2017; it’s reached by a custom bridge and winding driveway lined with olive trees.

Betty White’s posthumous selling spree

Built in the 1950s, the Colonial-style home sits on three-quarters of an acre and comes with a stone patio and swimming pool.

Built in the 1950s, the Colonial-style home sits on three-quarters of an acre and comes with a stone patio and swimming pool.

(Anthony Barcelo)

Weeks after Betty White’s beach house surfaced for sale, the late actor’s other home in Brentwood has hit the market for $10.575 million.

If the sale in Brentwood goes anything like the sale of her home in Carmel-by-the-Sea, it’ll be a massive success. The beach house hit the market for $7.95 million in March and an offer was accepted less than two weeks later. According to the listing agency, it’s set to sell for $10.775 million — a whopping $2.825 million more than the asking price.

White, who died in December at 99, bought the Brentwood home with her husband, game show host Allen Ludden, in the 1960s. Built a decade earlier, the Colonial-style spot is tucked behind gates and features splashes of stone and pops of yellow across the exterior.

The 3,000-square-foot floor plan features five bedrooms and six bathrooms, but the property itself is being marketed as a tear-down. Listing photos only show the exterior, and potential buyers won’t be able to go inside.

Orange County hits the $1-million milestone

Huntington Beach, CA - August 09: An aerial view of workers constructing new homes at Parkside Estates in Huntington Beach.

Huntington Beach, CA – August 09: An aerial view of workers constructing new homes at Parkside Estates in Huntington Beach on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The median home price in Orange County reached $1 million last month, becoming the first Southern California county to ever hit that pricey mark and underscoring just how expensive the region has become, writes Andrew Khouri.

The threshold was crossed when the Orange County median sales price for new and existing houses, condos and town homes rose from $985,000 in February to $1,020,000 in March, according to data released this week by researcher DQNews. It constitutes a 22% jump in median price from a year prior.

Million-dollar homes spread rapidly throughout Southern California during the pandemic, becoming commonplace in communities once thought to be relatively affordable such as Highland Park and West Adams in Los Angeles County. The median price in Los Angeles County rose to $840,000 in March, up 12% from a year earlier.

Former journalism building now used for drones

A low-slung building, framed by fresh plantings, reveals a fragment of an old sign reading "S ANGELES."

Costa Mesa, CA – March 15, 2022: Exterior view showing of the former Los Angeles Times signage.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

When the Los Angeles Times opened its Orange County offices in 1968, the event was so low-key that it didn’t generate coverage in the pages of the paper itself. The office and printing plant, however, did materialize in the classified ads, where The Times advertised part-time jobs — “Call Now!” — whose responsibilities were left mysteriously undescribed, writes Carolina A. Miranda.

Now, The Times’ old Orange County headquarters has found new life thanks to Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects, which pulled out the scalpels and began slicing open ceiling and walls to produce skylights and windows. A dramatic open-air atrium at the heart of the complex — capped by a remnant of old Los Angeles Times signage — marks the site where the breezeway once stood.

In addition to a new look and a new name, the complex now known as the Press also has a new tenant: Anduril, a defense contractor that designs drones. It’s a symbolic inversion of architectural purpose: a building once inhabited by a newsroom, an institution that is purportedly about putting an uncomfortable spotlight on the inner workings of power, will now be employed for the purpose of fabricating secretive military technology.

What we’re reading

Will home prices ever drop? An interactive chart from Fortune seeks to answer that question, placing housing markets across the country into five different categories based on the likelihood that home prices will fall in the next year. Unfortunately, all of Southern California ranks in the “low likelihood” category except for the Imperial Valley city of El Centro, which ranks as medium.

Buying a beach house and renting it out can be lucrative, but some areas are more profitable than others. The New York Times detailed the best beach towns for landlords and Gulf Shores, Ala., took the top spot. No California communities made the top 10, which includes three cities in Florida and two in North Carolina.