They say that the luxury real estate market is experiencing a slow down but if the recent sale of “The Mountain” is anything to go by it hasn’t just slowed down its completely collapsed!!
Towering over the bustling city of Los Angeles “The Mountain” as it is affectionately called is a 157-acre mountain plot seated on the highest peak in Beverley Hills so when it was listed for sale for a price tag of $1billion although exorbitant no really batted an eyelid after all its zip code 90210 is home to some of the world’s most expensive real estate but earlier this month in a small auction room this same plot sold for just $100,000.
Located off Benedict Canyon, “The Mountain” has a somewhat chequered past. Big enough to fit the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks into it the plot actually comprises of 17 individual parcels of land. For more than 40 years this plot of land has been linked to foreign royals, entertainment moguls, and billionaires and all have failed to break ground.
Formerly called “The Vineyard” it was once owned by an Iranian princess who had enlisted the architects of Lloyd Wright Foundation to build her own American palace but following Iran’s Islamic Revolution her plans were abandoned and she retreated to more humble premises.
TV producer and real estate developer Merv Griffin became the lands next owner his goal was simple he wanted to create a home larger than that of Aaron Spelling who at the time was creating his vast 56,000sq ft property, but with so many property projects on the go his enthusiasm soon began to wane and quietly the land was placed back on the market and purchased by billionaire Herbalife founder Mark Hughes who had plans to build a 45,000sq ft Mediterranean Mansion and wildlife reserve but his sudden death in 2000 meant the project never got off the ground. Leaving the property to his son aged 9, his sole beneficiary the land was placed into trust and it is at this time that the story gets a little murky.
Enter Charles “chips” Dickens, a Atlanta real estate investor who borrowed around $23.75 million from the Hughes estate to buy and develop the property. It was “chips” and his business partner Victor Noval who attached the eye watering $1billion price tag to the land while marketing the land to potential investors and whilst there was interest it is alleged that Tom Cruise and casino heir James Packer were interested there were no buyers and records show that “chips” and co, soon defaulted on the loan and with interest it had increased to $200million.
Burdened by debt the pair tried to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but this was overruled by the Hughes trust who instead forced a foreclosure auction meaning the Hughes trust could repurchase the land and try and recover its loses. So once again the land is back in the hands of the Hughes Trust and only time will tell how this saga will end…