A big sale goes (quietly) down in Bel Air

Think of this story as Yolanda’s attempt to provide an appetizing diversion from your current politically-themed meltdown (or celebration). We’re going to keep this semi-fun and relatively light and (mostly) free of politics talk. Okie dokie? Alrighty then.

While homes in certain tony LA neighborhoods (Trousdale Estates, Holmby Hills, Pacific Palisades) have been selling like proverbial hotcakes, the historically old-money and Republican bastion of Bel Air has kept things a wee bit muted this year. Other than one $35 million sale, we’ve seen very little big real estate action in the neighborhood. No clash of cymbals here.

But things change. Don’t they?

Well, this here story ain’t about another $100 million transfer. But a couple weeks ago, a rather unfortunate-looking mega-mansion that had been originally listed at $35,000,000… sold.

The house first became (publicly) available nearly two years ago. At some point, the price tumbled to $29,500,000 and it was also listed as a luxury rental with a scary $75k/month pricetag. The 1.2-acre property is tucked into a hairpin curve on Bellagio Road and — for better or worse — happens to be directly across the street from the entrance to the impossibly hoity-toity (and somewhat stuffy) Bel Air Country Club, where the initiation fee runs $150,000 and members include Jack Nicholson, Leslie Moonves, and Clint Eastwood.

The $27 million mega-mansion… with the Country Club blacktop as a backdrop

But we digress. The actual sale price, property records reveal, was $27,600,000 — quite a bit lower than the too-optimistic original ask. But to be honest, that’s still way more bucks than your gurl thought this turkey would garner. We congratulate the seller on his success here, although the persnickety Yolanda takes a few issues with his house.

You see, kiddies, it’s yet another case of once upon a time. Once upon a time, this was a very nice, classy, happy, chipper, 1936 Paul Williams-built mansion. But alas, no longer. The seller — a very rich but semi-reclusive attorney-turned-real-estate maverick (trailer park landlord) named Jeffrey A. Kaplan — renovated and expanded the entire house over his 15++ year ownership.

Now, there’s no doubt that it’s a very luxurious house. And we’re sure it has all the gizmos and doo-dads folks with Trump- or Clinton-esque money would want. But those peeps at Curbed once described this house as a “bastardized Paul Williams” and “just another mega-mansion”. And Yolanda is afraid we must echo those sentiments.

There are certain spaces we like — the living room, the dining room, and at least one of the bedrooms appear to be original to the property — but most everything else here appears entirely devoid of style. This is a house that is big for the sake of being, well, big. Today the swollen marine mammal weighs in at a warehouse-sized 20,866-square-feet with 11 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms. Two gourmet kitchens. Two dining rooms. A master bedroom suite with two sitting rooms and two bathrooms. A theater, a gym, a wine cellar, a beauty salon. A giftwrapping room. A flower-arranging room (although the listing photos appear nearly devoid of flowers). And a seven-car garage plus two separate motorcourts. And then the ubiquitous pool and tennis courts, natch. On and on it goes.

Surprisingly, very few photos of the home’s exterior were included in the listing. That aerial shot above kinda proves why, don’t it? The place is a rambling, rather disjointed mess that looks a bit like several architects added on to it at different points in time. Which they did, of course.

Anywho, Yolanda happens to know that the heavyset estate’s new owners are a guy named Todd Lemkin and his wife Kasey Sample Lemkin. Our Mr. Lemkin is a Partner at Canyon Capital, one of LA’s largest hedge funds. Meanwhile, Mrs. Sample Lamkin toils as the co-founder of a cute jewelry line.

The Lemkins currently make their home in the tony and family-friendly neighborhood of Brentwood Park, on the very same street where OJ gunned down his ex-wife, once upon a time. Yikes-arooney! And as it turns out, the Brentwood house in question recently popped up onto the market with a heavy-duty $17,500,000 asking price. Their “starter” mansion has a mere 12,003 square feet of living space with 7 bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms.

Rather ambiguously described in marketing materials as a “magnificent estate”, the .66-acre spread’s main structure looks to Yolanda like a rather clumsy attempt at a modern Traditional. And it’s remarkably similar to the Bel Air house they just purchased, no? All the light wood, cavernous rooms and disjointed architecture. Not that it ain’t a very swanky pad, of course.

Mr. & Mrs. Lemkin purchased the house from mega-talent agent Michael (Mike) Ovitz back in 2010 for $8,500,000. Which means, of course, that they believe the thing is now worth more than double what it was six years ago. Hmmm. Ballsy!

But of course, this is the same neck of the Brentwood woods where Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff paid nearly $20 million for a similarly-sized house. So there’s that.

Like many uber-wealthy Angelenos, the Lemkins also owned a vacation home out in Malibu, for which they paid $11,562,500 back in August 2013. However, they did not stay very long. The couple flipped the house this June (2016) for $13,085,000 to Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, a guy who is quite the real estate baller himself. But that’s a story for another day.

The Malibu Road spread — which sits just a quick skip away from ol’ Camille Grammer’s new house — was designed by Scott Gillen of Unvarnished. He has bought, slicked-up, and very successfully flipped homes in the ‘bu from La Costa to Broad Beach.

Now as for Mr. Kaplan, the seller of the Bel Air estate, you might think that a 70+ year old guy like him is ready to downsize, right? 20,000+ square feet is a lot to handle. Not everyone wants to walk a quarter-mile from the master bedroom to the kitchen.

But nope. Just like Trump, Mr. Kaplan is gearing up for bigger digs. And while Trump may have won the election, Mr. Kaplan crushed the square footage game. Check out his new digs! (The satellite photo below is outdated. This shopping mall is now finished.)


Mr. Kaplan has already moved to a monolithic mega-mega-mansion that is also located in ultra-prime lower Bel Air, just a quarter-mile from his old digs. The French-themed wildebeest “Chateau des Fleurs” reportedly weighs in at somewhere around 60,000 square feet, if the underground parking garage is taken into consideration. That means, kiddies, it is quite possibly bigger than both the White House (55,000 square feet) and The Manor over in Holmby Hills (56,500 square feet). We’re not certain, of course, but Yolanda suspects this might even be the biggest house in Los Angeles. Mr. Kaplan is obviously quite the real estate size queen.

As far as we can tell, the Kaplans (Jeffrey and his second wife, Tracy) bought the 3.12-acre, two parcel Bel Air spread for about $13,500,000 and spent nearly a decade constructing the oinker. Architect William Hefner is responsible for the design. For more information on the property, go here.

Records reveal Mr. Kaplan also lays claim to a modest 4,000-square-foot structure elsewhere in lower Bel Air. We’re not sure who lives here, but the house happens to be on one of the busiest and noisiest corners of the neighborhood.

Mr. Kaplan’s other Bel Air house… with a new Ferrari and Rolls Royce in the carport

Yolanda is not entirely sure why Mr. Kaplan needs a 60,000 square foot mega-mega-mansion in Bel Air and a 4,000 square foot “guest house” in the same neighborhood, but we figure this place must be for some sort of familial relative as opposed to staff housing. Yolanda spies a new Rolls-Royce Ghost and a new Ferrari California sitting in the carport. Both of those swanky rides are in the $300,000 range with options, and somehow we doubt the hired help would be cruising around town in one of those. But you never know.

Despite their limitless moolah and the colossal crib, the Kaplans remain somewhat of a mystery. We’ve never met them and they’re not part of LA’s richie-rich chi-chi social scene. They don’t slap their names on buildings or write big checks to pet causes. They don’t pour millions into politics. Or if they do any of those things, Yolanda ain’t know about it. Still, the fact that Mr. Kaplan built his fortune by owning trailer parks and lives in one of the world’s largest houses seals his fate as a legend in Yolanda’s mind.

Speaking of legends, Mr. Kaplan’s first wife was a lady named Donna Kaplan. Our Ms. Kaplan — who has long been divorced from Mr. Kaplan yet still retains his surname — currently owns and resides in a Brentwood house best-known as the house wherein Marilyn Monroe met her maker.

Marilyn Monroe’s final home… now owned by Donna Kaplan

Back in November 2012, Ms. Kaplan forked out a fat $5,100,000 for the 2,097 square foot Brentwood hacienda in a quiet off-market deal.

No shade, y’all, but Yolanda would honestly rather live in Donna Kaplan’s petite pad than in her ex-hubby’s bloated bovine. Like we always say, more ain’t always better than less. And sometimes the bigger figure doesn’t win the race. Just get what you need and the excess is irrelevant. Ain’t that the truth?

Listing agent: Drew Fenton, Hilton & Hyland



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *