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Stein Mart’s Jay Stein Drops $31 Million on Iconic Bel Air Estate

seller: Bill & Maria Bell
location: Bel Air, Los Angeles, Calif.
price: $31 million
size: 13,361 square feet, 5 beds, 7.5 baths

Although the longterm outlook for most retailers typically ranges from grim to bleak, things are somewhat rosier at Stein Mart. The discount apparel chain, which sports nearly 300 stores in the southern U.S., recently added Amazon Lockers to most locations — a move guaranteed to bring them increased foot traffic — and are cooking up various other new methods to grow profits.

Things are apparently swell enough that Jay Stein — Stein Mart’s longtime chairman, largest shareholder and grandson of company founder Sam Stein — and his wife Deanie felt comfortable dumping exactly $31 million on a rather epic estate in prime East Gate Bel Air, arguably L.A.’s most desirable residential neighborhood.

Designed in the 1930s by Wallace Neff and built for Hollywood mogul Sol Wurtzel, the Spanish Colonial stunner majestically looms high over the streetfront and clocks in with 13,361 square feet of living space. An exceptionally long gated driveway sweeps up to the home’s discreet motor court, where a flamboyant pair of Corinthian columns frame the front door. According to real estate broker Jeff Hyland‘s 428-page coffee table book The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills, Neff designed the structure with its uniquely curved shape to allow each of the main floor rooms at least two exposures that open to board loggias and the terraced formal gardens.

So the stories go, the property was sold in 1953 for $125,000 — a very large sum of money at that time — to pioneering (and controversial) self-help guru Anthony Norvell, a native New Yorker who married into money, moved to Hollywood, and quickly became the go-to astrologist for bigshot celebrities of that era, including Mary Pickford.

For nearly 30 years, until her death in 1990, the property was owned by heiress and thoroughbred horse owner Dolly Green, daughter of oilman (and city of Beverly Hills co-founder) Burton Green. Several months after her death, the property was sold to art collectors Bill & Maria Bell, members of the Bell family soap opera dynasty, for $4.775 million. Fanatical watchers of “The Bold and the Beautiful” may recognize this Bel Air mansion’s exterior as the show’s longtime Forrester Estate.

Last year, the Bells put the sumptuous pad up for sale with a $37.5 million ask, a number that dropped to $34 million before transferring to its new owners for the aforementioned $31 million.

The Steins, avid collectors of midcentury photography and longtime Florida residents, appear to be making California their primary home. Their longtime Jacksonville digs, an elegant waterfront mansion on a multi-acre lot, recently popped up for sale with a $6.5 million ask, as did their “starter” Los Angeles house — a slick contemporary in Beverly Hills currently saddled with a $29.5 million pricetag. As for the Bells, they continue to maintain several other lavish homes around the globe, including swanky estates in Malibu and Aspen.

Westside Estate Agency’s Kurt Rappaport held the Bells’ Bel Air listing; Coldwell Banker’s Jade Mills repped the Steins in their purchase.

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