Former Miss Universe Bui Simon closes in on a record-breaking $38 million Palisades palace

(EDIT 5/17/18: This sale closed today for the strangely-complicated price of $33,850,670. This is officially the biggest transaction in Pacific Palisades history.)

After an arduous two-year slog on the market — during which time it underwent two changes of realtors and a significant price chop — realtor Elizabeth Halsted has the Pacific Palisades mansion of the late TV syndication tycoon Michael King in escrow to be sold, according to the online listing. And Yolanda hears from a spy named JJ that the deal is already done-done-done. The listing photos have been yanked off the MLS, and the sale will officially record sometime this week. Possibly even tomorrow — Thursday, 5/17.

Anyhoo, we know that the $38,000,000 asking price of this place might seem unexciting to some of our readers. Y’all have been jaded with our recent tales of $110 million compounds and such. Trust Yolanda, though, when she tells you this is a very big deal for the Palisades.  Should it close for anywhere over $32.5 million — the Palisades record-setting price from a couple years back — it will be the most expensive transaction in neighborhood history.

Unfortunately, Yolanda does not yet know the final sale price. Any guesses?

We do, however, know the identity of the secretive big-bucks buyer. Thanks to JJ, we can tell everyone that it is former Miss Universe-turned-philanthropist-and-Malibu-socialite Bui Simon.

Our Mrs. Simon was born in Bangkok, Thailand, though it appears she was raised mostly in the USA by her immigrant parents. While her birth name is Porntip Bui Nakhirunkanok, Mrs. Simon has long called herself simply “Bui” (perhaps understandably). In 1988, she became the second-ever Thai woman to win the Miss Universe pageant. She is also a former United Nations Goodwill Ambassador of Thailand and holds a degree in psychology from Malibu’s Pepperdine University. Nowadays she heads up a charity — the Thai-focused Angels Wings Foundation — and splits her time between Montecito and Malibu. She has become very involved in society life around the latter town — as such, she is now close friends with many of Malibu’s wealthiest fellow residents.

Bui Simon (second from left) with Laurie Lynn Stark and the Crawford-Gerbers

Tongues wagged in 2002 when our gurl married billionaire Herbert Simon, a twice-divorced guy 34 years her senior. But Mrs. Simon casually brushed the jealousy off, and the couple appear to remain happily married, 16 years on. During that time, the Simons were blessed with two biological children and also adopted the three young kids of Mrs. Simon’s now-deceased sister.

Mr. Simon is the owner of the Indiana Pacers NBA team and a shopping mall mogul. However, y’all, we have been told by the knowledgable Jenerous Jenson that Mr. Simon is not involved (technically, at least) in the Palisades mansion purchase — the sole buyer is Mrs. Simon. And a peep through property records reveals that both the couple’s Malibu homes are owned solely by Mrs. Simon and not her hubby.

Interesting. We wonder why Mrs. Simon would be purchasing this place on her own. Maybe this is just how they arrange things for succession planning? After all, Mr. Simon is now 83 years old.

Oh, by the way, if the Simon surname sounds familiar, it could be because Yolanda has discussed this billionaire clan several times in the past. Bren Simon — the widow of Mr. Simon’s now-deceased billionaire brother Melvin — is a world-class real estate baller.

The listing waxes poetic about how the Palisades manse “is reminiscent of the great English manor homes of the 18th century.” However, Yolanda no longer wears realtor goggles, so what we see here is a stately white brick Georgian-style house looks decidedly new-ish. And yes, we do find it rather lovely.

For those of y’all detail-oriented readers, the late Mr. King and his wife Jena paid $11 million for the 1.39-acre property way back in 2002 and hired New York-based architecture team Ferguson & Shamamian to custom-build the 15,162-square-foot edifice. The 7 bed and 13 bath house was completed in 2005 and sits on a hilltop in the exclusive and celeb-stacked Riviera section of the Palisades.

A classic center-hall layout defines the residence, which includes a gracious sunroom and a staircase with stairs that look like a bunch of encyclopedias stacked atop one another.

A comfy-looking living room is equipped with a fireplace and multiple access points to the outdoors. Both the living and dining rooms have gorgeous polished mahogany floors and mother of pearl paneled walls. Sounds fancy!

The library has elaborate ceiling detailing, an ornate chandelier, and a fireplace. A breakfast nook connects to a casually elegant family room with yet a fireplace and interesting salmon-colored wood-paneled walls. An outdoor living room has yet another fireplace.

Mr. & Mrs. King hired venerated designer Michael S. Smith — Obama’s White House decorator — to select the decor for each and every room up in here.

The sprawling master suite upstairs includes more mahogany floors and a separate sitting room. And both the his-and-hers bathrooms are equipped with glassy showers and sitting areas of their own.

Other indoor recreational spaces include a game room, a gym, and a screening room with a variety of tiered seating options.

As y’all might expect, the grounds here are exquisitely detailed with manicured lawns, lush formal gardens, carefully clipped hedges, and an elegantly rectangular pool set downstairs from the main yard, near a convenient poolside pavilion.

The home’s location on the San Remo rim of the Riviera neighborhood provides for spectacular southward views of the Pacific Ocean, the Palos Verdes peninsula, and Catalina. To the east are the skyscrapers of Century City and the lights of the Getty Center. Further out (and only visible on a smog-free day) are the San Gabriel Mountains.

For now, Mrs. Simon and her husband primarily reside in a lavish Montecito (CA) compound. The property sits on three parcels totalling nearly 12 acres of land.

Herb & Bui Simon’s 12-acre Montecito compound

The baronial property is just a wee skip down the road from several even fancier estate spreads, including Oprah’s 66-acre Promised Land and Jamie Kern Lima’s $35 million villa.

Though the couple still primarily reside in the Montecito compound, the Simons have been spending a significant amount of time down in Malibu, at their oceanfront mini-mansion on perilously pricey Carbon Beach — aka Billionaires’ Beach. Records show that Mr. Simon paid $11,750,000 for the property way back in 2001. By 2004, he had deeded it over to his wife.

Bui Simon’s Carbon Beach mansion

The Carbon Beach house is located right next door to billionaire Simon Nixon’s $25 million compound and is just a handful of doors away from the $85 million spread that media mogul David Geffen sold to Dodgers owner Mark Walter.

Records also show that Mrs. Simon additionally owns a second property on the beach of billionaires, just further up the coast. This much more modest pad is a condo with just 1,956-square-feet of living space, so Yolanda would imagine it is occupied by staff or an extended family member(s).

The Simons also own an 8,565-square-foot mansion in a tony neighborhood of Indianapolis, Indiana — where Mr. Simon’s business interests have long been based — although Yolanda is unsure how much time they actually spend living there nowadays.

Famous new neighbors for Mrs. Simon

Back out in the Palisades, some of Mrs. Simon’s new neighbors include actress Jennifer Garner — who lives right next door — and powerhouse TV/film director/producer J.J. Abrams, who is two doors away. And just around the corner and up the road is a fortified mansion owned by Tamme McCauley, the daughter of Mrs. Simon’s in-law Bren Simon. Coincidence?

We do not know if Bui Simon and Ms. McCauley hang out socially — it seems kinda doubtful — but if they happen to cross neighborly paths in the Riviera, Yolanda’s unsolicited advice to Mrs. Simon is to avoid asking about the police standoff that went down in Ms. McCauley’s home last year, the one that ultimately left her boyfriend dead of a self-inflicted gun wound. Yikes.

Listing agent: Elizabeth Halsted, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Bui Simon’s agent: Joyce Rey, Coldwell Banker

  1. Sam says:

    Beautiful, timeless house. Do hate the staircase though. I wish more of these types of homes would be built in LA and less of the bloated modern spec homes.

  2. LaChancla says:

    If this is worth $38 mill or something close to it, wonder how much Garner’s place next door is worth? it appears to be a larger and more private lot, plus as I recall there’s also an underground guest house.

  3. ian mo says:

    I think Elizabeth Halsted deserves a lot of credit for selling this record price for the area after 2 other agents couldn’t ….

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