Rumor has it: Bruce Karsh in escrow on the $77.5 million Holmby Hills farmhouse

Good gracious! Yolanda’s flip phone has been blowing up with news that the Grey Estate in Holmby Hills, listed less than two months ago with a hernia-inducing $77,500,000 asking price, is already in escrow. The potential buyer, we first heard from Our Mama at Variety, is billionaire finance guru Bruce Karsh, one of LA’s richest full-time residents and a guy with a well-documented love for lavish estates. But before we digress, a wee background on the property.

The Grey Estate sits on 2.15 acres of land on North Carolwood Drive, one of the most expensive pockets of town. Next door is Fleur de Lys, which was sold in 2014 for $88,300,000 cash to Russian billionaire Yuri Milner. Directly across the street is a 30,000-square-foot mega-mansion that was transferred in 2016 for $100,000,000 to American billionaire Tom Gores. Next door to Mr. Gores is the Carolwood Estate, which in 2014 was sold by Mexican billionaire Gabriel Brener for $74,000,000 to Chinese billionaire Zhang Jun.

Billionaires’ Row in Holmby Hills

Back in 2010, the now-deceased film producer Brad Grey paid $18,500,000 for the Holmby Hills estate in question, which at that time contained a historic home once owed by Frank Sinatra. In 2011, Mr. Grey and his second wife — cosmetics entrepreneur Cassandra Grey — were married in a lavish star-studded ceremony on the property.

In 2012, Mr. and Mrs. Grey controversially bulldozed the old Sinatra house to make way for their dream home. They hired Napa Valley-based architect Howard Backen to construct a dream compound in the elegantly rustic style for which he is known.

If y’all have never heard Mr. Backen’s name prior to this, better start bookmarking it. Yolanda can virtually guarantee you will be seeing it much more in the future. Our boy Mr. Backen is pretty much the hottest new architect in town, and his projects have begun setting neighborhood records all over the place. He’s already made his mark, you see, on the Westside.

The $18.3 million Howard Backen-designed Brentwood farmhouse

In 2016, a Howard Backen-designed farmhouse in Brentwood’s Sullivan Canyon sold for a fat $18,300,000 to Texas-based billionaire Dan Friedkin, a record amount for the neighborhood and more than $3,000 per square foot.

The $41 million Howard Backen-designed Santa Monica farmhouse

Last year, Krista Levitan — the ex-wife of Modern Family creator Steve Levitan — sold her Howard Backen-designed farmhouse for a record-breaking $41,082,000 to billionaire heir Kevin Washington. The sale remains the biggest-ever residential deal on the Westside of LA (or west of the 405 freeway, at least).

But Mr. Backen’s most elaborate project in LA (thus far) has been the Holmby Hills complex he designed for Mr. & Mrs. Grey, the one we are discussin’ today.

Unfortunately for Mr. Grey, he only got a few months — at most — to enjoy his Backen compound before he passed away last year after a long battle with cancer. He was just 59 years old (RIP!).

A long gated driveway leads a multi-winged main house of approximately 13,000-square-feet with design by Atelier AM. Rustic vertical wood slats on the outside belie the ultra-contemporary trimmings within, and olive trees and lush gardens surrounding the house soften the home’s hard edges.

The living room is so large that it could easily be transformed into a ballroom, should all the furniture be cleared out. As is, the room converts into a professional-grade screening room at the touch of a button. A more intimate den/family room offers a wet bar and floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking the estate grounds. An expansive library sports bookshelves filled with real books.

The rather austere professional-grade kitchen is clearly not meant for lookin’ pretty — this thing is mean to work and cater to the dietary needs of hundreds of guests. A bridge over a shallow ravine links the swimming pool area to a striking two-story recreation pavilion wrapped in rigorously spaced horizontal slats of wood and houses what listing details describe as “twin gyms”, both of which are equipped with glorious walls of glass overlooking the yard.

There are five bedroom suites in the main house, and another two in the 1,000-square-foot guest/staff house. The master includes his-and-hers bathrooms with lovely white oak flooring. Naturally, there are views out over the verdant backyard.

The estate’s exquisitely manicured grounds were designed by British landscape architect Miranda Brooks. Sprawling lawns are bordered by mature imported trees, the swimming pool and spa are set into an open area, and a sheltered outdoor dining spot is bordered by an organic vegetable and herb garden.

Our boy Mr. Karsh is the co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, one of LA’s largest hedge funds by AUM (assets under management). According to Forbes, homeboy gets by with a net worth of $1.93 billion, making him one of LA’s wealthiest full-time residents. As such, Mr. Karsh and his feisty wife Martha Karsh maintain an already baller-style real estate portfolio.

Bruce & Martha Karsh

Back in late 2014, the Karshes — who have three adult children, for what that’s worth — quietly shelled out $33,721,500 for a rather gorgeous Traditional-style spread on what is often considered the most prestigious street in Brentwood: Oakmont Drive. The sale remains the second-largest ever in Brentwood, behind only Dr. Dre’s $40 million splurge.

Bruce Karsh’s $33.7 million Brentwood estate

Interestingly enough, the property was sold to the Karshes by Howard Marks, who is Mr. Karsh’s longtime business partner and a co-founder of Oaktree. The compound has approximately 10,000-square-feet of living space spread out over multiple structures on 1.9 flat acres, and the interiors were done up by Obama’s White House decorator Michael S. Smith.

Before buying in Brentwood, the Karshes long resided at an estate in the Benedict Canyon area of the Beverly Hills Post Office. They paid $12,000,000 for the rambling 3-acre tennis court estate way back in 2000. Though they purchased their new Brentwood compound more than 3 years ago, records show they have not sold the B.H.P.O. pad.

The longtime Karsh residence in the Beverly Hills Post Office neighborhood

Mr. and Mrs. Karsh may be best-known to real estate gossips for the years-long crusade they have waged against their 90210 next-door neighbor, Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. Back in 2011, Martha Karsh was furious when she learned that Prince Abdulaziz had purchased a 3-parcel vacant property next door and was planning to build a 85,000-square-foot mega-compound.

The Karshes hired a team of lawyers and personally mobilized all their neighbors to fight the project. Though the prince eventually agreed to downsize his plans to a 60,000-square-foot estate, that was not enough for folks and a court eventually ordered a complete halt to the construction. As of today, as far as Yolanda knows, the prince’s property remains essentially vacant land.

Records also indicate that the Karshes own an 8,300-square-foot mansion on 7.7 very private acres up in fancy (and unfortunately mudslide-ravaged) Montecito (CA) as well as a vacation estate in Hawaii.

Listing agents: Stephen Shapiro, Westside Estate Agency; Linda May, Hilton & Hyland


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