Plus Icon Buyer Austin Russell
Plus Icon Location Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, Calif.
Plus Icon Price $83 million
Plus Icon Year 2020
Plus Icon Specs 20,000 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 18 bathrooms
Plus Icon Lot Size 0.99 acres
Though Dirt prides itself on accuracy, occasionally we do get it wrong. One of those occasions was back in July, when we erroneously reported on an $83 million house sale in Pacific Palisades. At the time, rumors swirled that the buyer was a “mystery crypto billionaire,” who had quickly ridden the bitcoin wave to overnight riches, though months passed and still everyone was strangely unable to name the crypto investor in question.
It’s probably no wonder, because it turns out that camera-shy “mystery crypto buyer” doesn’t actually exist. According to multiple sources — and now confirmed by a thorough cross-examination of property records — the buyer was actually Austin Russell, the 26-year-old tech wunderkind who’s CEO and founder of self-driving car automation pioneer Luminar.
Founded in 2012, Luminar initially operated in stealth mode, and it remained largely unknown to the public until 2017, when the company began partnering with many of the world’s largest carmakers. Initially based in Silicon Valley but now headquartered in Orlando, Luminar develops laser-based radar sensor tech for automobiles, specifically for those upcoming models with yet-to-be-released autonomous driving features.
Luminar went public last December, making Russell an overnight billionaire. Forbes subsequently crowned him the world’s “youngest self-made” billionaire; as of today, the publication estimates his net worth tops $1.7 billion.
Russell, who was born and raised in the swanky Southern California city of Newport Beach by well-to-do parents — his father Michael Russell works in commercial real estate and is now employed at Luminar, his mother is former model and actress Shannon Cleye, who had a recurring role on “The Young and the Restless” — isn’t any stranger to big money. While in college at Stanford University, he dropped out to receive a $100,000 grant from Peter Thiel, funds that enabled him to grow Luminar. One of the company’s earliest and biggest financial backers was also fellow billionaire Alec Gores, who serves on its board of directors.
While Luminar’s IPO made Russell a billionaire on paper — supposedly the “world’s youngest self-made billionaire,” remember — it didn’t necessarily make him cash-rich. Per public SEC documents, the SoCal native takes home a paltry $300,000 annual salary, certainly leagues from mogul cash flow and the down payment needed on an $83 million house.