Stephen Shapiro, the president of Westside Estate Agency, said that the market for properties above $60 million was particularly strong but that the Mountain of Beverly Hills was wildly overpriced.
“For a billion dollars, you could buy it multiple times,” he said, adding that he had gotten feelers that suggest $200 million might be within negotiable reach. (Ronald Richards, a lawyer who represents Secured Capital Partners, the current titleholder on the property, said such queries were a common way for lenders to get a sense of whether their debts could quickly be recovered if necessary, not an indicator of the property’s market value.)A Spreadsheet of Potential Buyers
Though this prime parcel is zoned for six lots, Mr. Kirman is marketing it as a family compound for a single buyer. Pulling out a color-coded spreadsheet that he said included the names of about 2,800 billionaires, he explained that by his calculation, roughly 50 to 100 of the people on that list would be in the market for such a property — Middle Eastern royalty or a Russian oligarch being a few of the possibilities he bandied about. (It’s unlikely that a developer would be able to make enough money by subdividing such pricey land and building multiple nine-figure mansions to justify the risk.)
One challenge: The buyer will have to come with not only an extremely high net worth but also some vision. “To be impressed by dirt is hard,” Mr. Kirman admitted.
Another challenge: This dirt has quite the history. Decades of legal battles, scuttled mansion plans and huge egos partly explain why such vast, beautiful piece of land in the middle of one of the hottest real estate markets in the country remains vacant. Known until recently as the Vineyard Beverly Hills, the property has been the subject of so many lawsuits and ownership disputes that even the lawyers seem to have lost count. Celebrities, including Tom Cruise, have tried to buy it in the past. Previous owners have drawn up grand plans to build homes, never to follow through.
In the late 1970s, Shams Pahlavi, an Iranian princess and the older sister of the last shah of Iran, bought the land and made plans to build a giant estate for her family. But in 1979, in the midst of her home country’s revolution, Iranian students in Los Angeles stormed another property she owned in the area, throwing firebombs. That, along with the death of the shah in 1980, prompted her to abandon the plans.
In 1987, Merv Griffin, the talk-show host and game-show producer, bought the property with the goal of building a home that would be slightly larger than the producer Aaron Spelling’s mansion — the largest in Los Angeles at the time, with 56,000 square feet. But he, too, eventually abandoned his plans and sold the Vineyard for $8.5 million in 1997 to Mark R. Hughes, the founder and chief executive of Herbalife.