L.A.’s real estate market was full of surprises in 2020, but none was perhaps more significant than the sale of the legendary Owlwood Estate in Holmby Hills.
Engrained in Hollywood legacy and lore, the grand mansion sold in late December for $88 million, making it the third-priciest residential real estate transaction last year in Los Angeles County.
The eight-figure deal trails only Jeff Bezos’ $165-million purchase of David Geffen’s prized mansion in Beverly Hills and the $125-million sale of Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Beverly Hills estate as L.A.’s biggest home sales of 2020.
Once listed for as much as $180 million, Owlwood was home to actor Tony Curtis in the 1960s and later the singing duo of Sonny Bono and Cher. The 10-acre compound combines three separate parcels and centers a spacious Italian Revival-style residence designed in 1936 for businessman C.H. Quinn by Robert D. Farquhar, a Los Angeles architect whose other projects range from the Pentagon to Beverly Hills High School.
While reports identified the buyer as Calch Urban Investments, a newly registered limited liability company based in Illinois, the historical pedigree of Owlwood’s past owners span various fields. From 20th Century-Fox Chairman Joseph Schenck to oil tycoon William Keck to Hotel Bel-Air founder Joseph Drown, the roster of past owners is quite distinguished.
That all changed in 2016 when the property was acquired by real estate developer Robert Shapiro, who was later sentenced to 25 years in prison for running a $1.3-billion Ponzi scheme. After purchasing the estate for $90 million through his firm, Woodbridge Group of Companies, Shapiro tried to double his money in 2017 by listing the property for $180 million. The property was later seized by the federal government and sold as part of the bankruptcy agreement.
One of the largest trophy estate in Holmby Hills, Owlwood offers sprawling grounds with a driveway wrapping around a spacious lawn and classical water fountain. Grandiose public rooms with impeccable attention to period detail capture the eye, while an ivy-dressed guesthouse creates a luxurious spread of 10 bedrooms and nine bathrooms.
Living spaces include a grand foyer, a wood-paneled living room, an oval sunroom featuring an elegant chandelier and a primary suite filled with its own fireplace, lounge, spa bathroom and ornate moldings. Manicured lawns and mature landscaping frame the estate, which includes a sunken tennis court and a swimming pool.
With the sale, the Owlwood estate remains a common fixture on L.A.’s priciest sales list. When Shapiro purchased the property in 2016, it was the second-priciest sale of the year, behind only the $100-million sale of the Playboy Mansion.