After a long slog on the market, an infamous mansion looming high above L.A.’s Sunset Strip has sold to local investor Joe Simsoly in an $18.5 million deal. That’s a very big number, of course, but it’s also more than $20 million less than the property last fetched in November 2012, when it transferred for a record-breaking $39 million to Malaysian playboy Jho Low. For many years, that transaction held the record for priciest Hollywood Hills home sale ever — until it was finally eclipsed earlier this year.
Low, now 38, first came to public attention about a decade ago, when tales of his mysterious financial largess began swirling in the New York papers. He traveled everywhere with an entourage of bodyguards and assistants, gobbling up luxury goods in unbelievable quantities and splashing money everywhere. He financed the Hollywood blockbuster “Wolf of Wall Street,” and provided his close friend Riza Aziz with funds to start the production company Red Granite Pictures.
Low also lavished gifts on celebrities, giving Leo DiCaprio a $3 million Picasso painting and a $9 million Basquiat. He presented $8 million in jewelry to Miranda Kerr, and he even sent Kim Kardashian West a white Ferrari as a wedding gift for her 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries.
Today, Low ranks among the world’s highest-profile fugitives. He’s been sought for years, so far unsuccessfully, by multiple nations for his alleged mastermind role in the global 1MDB scandal, which has ensnared everyone from Goldman Sachs executives to foreign heads of state. DiCaprio and Kerr ultimately surrendered their gifts to the government. (As for Kardashian West, she sold the Ferrari long before the scandal began unfolding.)
Originally built in the 1980s by actor Ricardo Montalban, the boxy modern mansion was designed by iconic Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. After Montalban’s 2009 death, the house was sold to Irish investor Paddy McKillen and megamansion developer Nile Niami, who radically reimagined the property as a massive, glassy contemporary mansion with more than 13,000 square feet of living space, plus a large guesthouse, a guard shack and a separate detached garage. The fortress-like compound, which has jetliner views of the entire L.A. skyline, was subsequently sold to Low in an off-market deal.
For unknown reasons, Low proceeded to tear the entire property up — the landscaping and interiors have all been gutted and ripped out, and the house has been vacant for at least the last three years. The gallery photos here show the house as it appeared in 2012; today, the property is little more than a trashed shell of that estate, and will undoubtedly require millions of dollars in restoration funds to bring back to livable condition.
The property’s sale was orchestrated by U.S. government authorities, and the proceeds will be returned to Malaysia. And while a $20 million dollar loss will undoubtedly sting, it’s little more than a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the $4 billion that’s believed to have been looted from the 1MDB fund.
Simsoly, a successful businessman who made his fortune in the apparel industry, has prior experience with large estates. Back in 2012, he paid $9.4 million for the Beverly Hills mansion of the late Bijan Pakzad, the colorful Iranian-American designer best-known for his Rodeo Drive storefront House of Bijan, the self-proclaimed “most expensive store in the world.” Today, the former Pakzad estate, sited prominently on Sunset Boulevard, serves as the Simsoly family’s main residence.
Ernie Carswell and Christopher Pickett of Douglas Elliman held the listing; Roy Harel and Arin Gharibian of Keller Williams repped Simsoly.