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Alan & Twila True request $60 million on Newport’s Harbor Island

It was a beautiful sunny Friday here in Southern California — a perfect time to embark on a weekend getaway. Wouldn’t a peaceful island destination be just the thing?

Unfortunately, Hawaii and the Caribbean are much too far for a quick trip, but Yolanda’s got the perfect remedy — right here in SoCal! Down behind the Orange Curtain, just off the coast of Newport Beach, lies one of the most expensive (and exclusive) islands on the whole dang globe. Welcome to Harbor Island.

The small and semi-artificial island was formed about 100 years ago and is connected to the mainland by a 24/7 guard-gated bridge. This high-security land mass has some of the most exclusive and desirable residential real estate in the OC — there are fewer than 30 homes on the island, many of which sport killer views over Newport Harbor. Thus, this wee slice of paradise has attracted many of the OC’s wealthiest peeps. Residents have included billionaires like Bill Gross, Donald Bren and George Argyros.

Today we shall discuss the largest, most lavish and by far most (in)famous home there — a hulking beast at the island’s tip. Astute real estate watchers may know the property is currently listed with a fat $60 million pricetag. ($59,995,000, to be precise.) Should the house sell for anywhere close to that number, it will rank as the most ever paid for an Orange County home — besting the $55 million that auto dealership magnate Larry Van Tuyl paid for his historic Newport compound back in 2017.

But despite the sunny skies, crisp sea air and sparkling aquamarine water that surround it, the landmark manor has a dark past littered with sordid financial troubles, marital problems and even death.

Palace with a past

Originally completed in 1990, the house currently features 6 beds and 10 baths in approximately 16,000-square-feet of living space. (That’s huge.) The manse was built by a prominent real estate developer named Leroy Carver III, a guy who owned his own bank — Carver Savings & Loan — and loaned himself $7.9 million to build the behemoth.

Just before the house was completed, however, Mr. Carver fell into deep financial doo-doo. His bank was seized by federal regulators and declared insolvent, so he sold the brand-new estate in 1991 for $13,600,000. Archived news stories from back then suggest it was the most ever paid for an OC home.

The buyer was Taiwanese businessman George Yao. But like Mr. Carver, our Mr. Yao had some serious financial problems. Within two years, the property was in default and folks were chasing him for money.

In 1995, Mr. Yao officially lost the property to the hungry maw of foreclosure. An investment group then flipped the house in April ’96 for just $8 million — or about 60% of what it fetched five years prior — to the next owner, former FBI exec William G. Simon. But our Mr. Simon didn’t have much chance to enjoy his big new home, either — he died only one year later at the ripe old age of 84.

Big Bertha

In mid-’99, Mr. Simon’s estate sold the home for $14,000,000 to a New Jersey couple named Arnold & Debbie Simon. The Simons (no relation to the prior owner) had made a lot of money in the apparel industry and were craving some California sunshine, or so it would seem.

Though the Simons were already been having marital problems, things reportedly worsened soon after their move to Newport Beach. Not long after their big real estate splurge, they began exceptionally hostile divorce proceedings that would drag on unresolved for the better part of a decade.

Compounding the Simons’ issues was the economic recession of 2008, which strained their finances considerably. The following year, the property fell into foreclosure. And Mrs. Simon — who remained in the home while her hubby relocated elsewhere — found herself flat broke. In fact, things became so desperate that she left the home’s air conditioning off during even the hottest summer days — she couldn’t afford the electric bill.

The late Mrs. Simon

On a scorching afternoon in September 2009, Mrs. Simon tied a heavy-duty extension cord to the grand staircase’s balustrade and hung herself above the mansion’s foyer. Her death made big waves in Orange County society — not just because of her wealth, but because she was a major social figure in the area, throwing numerous charity fundraisers at the property.

But we digress. Despite its dark past, Mr. Simon managed to unload the property in June 2010, less than a year after his estranged wife’s demise. Records show the buyers paid a whopping $27,000,000 for the house, one of the highest prices ever paid in the OC. And this was in the midst of a recession, y’all.

Though technically owned by a blind trust, the property’s current owners are Alan and Twila True.

The Trues

Mr. and Mrs. Trues are both lifelong entrepreneurs who didn’t grow up in glamorous circumstances. Our Mr. True originally hails from Colorado, but moved to Chicago to work on the Mercantile Exchange after college. By the late 1980s, he was living and working in Asia.

As for Mrs. True, she was raised in the remote Badlands region of South Dakota — on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, otherwise known as the USA’s poorest community . (Mrs. True is Sioux by blood.)

The couple have four children: three biological and one young daughter adopted from the same Sioux tribe where Mrs. True was raised.

Before moving to their impressive Newport Beach digs, the couple long resided in China and Hong Kong, where they made their first fortune in the furniture business. The couple founded office furniture manufacturer True Innovations, a company that was acquired for an undisclosed (but undoubtedly massive) sum by Chinese conglomerate Li & Fong.

The Trues are also active philanthropists

Since moving back to the US, the Trues have dumped loads of money into the residential real estate market. By Mrs. True’s own admission, the couple preside over a portfolio of 1,000+ rental properties, most of them small Midwest homes priced in the $70,000-$80,000 range. That means the couple have dropped more than $70 million on real estate alone — not counting their $27 million OC house.

And speaking of the OC, the Trues have become tremendously involved with the local community since they moved into the neighborhood — they regularly host charity luncheons and galas at their home, and it appears they also throw an annual holiday party for their employees on the premises.

Mrs. True in her Harbor Island living room

Our gurl Mrs. True recently invited the folks at Modern Luxury into her Newport home, where she chatted about her new line of high-end nail salons (and more).

Now, about the real estate and that $60 million asking price. Some of y’all may be inclined to scoff. But before you judge, keep in mind that the Trues completely renovated the home. And after all, this is one of the OC’s premier estates. So take a peek at the photos — whatever you think of the home’s style, the spread is certainly somethin’.

The limestone-clad neoclassical mansion is completely walled and gated for privacy and security. There’s a nine-car underground garage, which is pretty cool, but the real star of the show are those spectacular views. The house sits on more than a half-acre of land and features formal lawns, rows of trees and a large swimming pool. There is more than 300 feet of water frontage plus a boat dock large enough to accommodate a 120-foot yacht.

Mr. and Mrs. True poured a great deal of money into home renovations, so the newly contemporary interiors look totally different from when the Simons owned the place.

The elegantly curved staircase is topped by a large skylight. The master suite features a mega-bedroom (it’s big enough to be a damn ballroom, seriously) and a marble-soaked bathroom.

How serious are the Trues about selling? Yolanda does not know — but the property has been listed since last May (2018) with an unchanged asking price. Maybe they’re just testing the waters — so to speak — or perhaps they’re holding out until the right record-breakin’ buyer saunters on over.

This future buyer — whoever he or she may be — isn’t just buying the most impressive house on SoCal’s most coveted island. They’re buying a very — ahem — “colorful” legacy, too. A mostly tragic legacy, but one with an upbeat ending. After all those distressed previous owners, the Trues have lived here for eight years and are happier — and richer — than ever. Or so it would seem.

Listing agent: Tara Foster Shapiro, Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty

CategoriesFinance
  1. M Abramson says:

    Fascinating, exhaustively researched story. The home reminds me of Le Petit Trianon, minus the island location of course.

  2. DR.FUNK says:

    Meh…it’s nice enough.Harbor Island is no Star Island or Palm Island to be sure. I even like neo-classic architecture But you can tell that it lacks “the soul” of the genre. Kinda like the architect ended up “sampling” the beat for lack of knowing it.Well-sorted interior. The real “star of the show” here is that dockage. Even if you got dough comin’ out the eyeballs…it still feels good to know you can get monthly phat phive phigure phees from the megayacht set. Not that there’s much of that in Newport Harbor.The 60m ask is a “I don’t really need to sell” or ” I’m waiting on Oligarch / Chinese / Tech money.” Probably sit for a year or three. There will be price chop(s).

  3. Mark K says:

    Some island “lifestyle” when your house is inches from the neighbors. Newport Harbor looks more like a gated community surrounded by a moat than a true island. The house looks beautiful, however.

  4. Pey-droh says:

    I believe that whole end of Harbor Island (the three lots on the west end) were originally the estate of HF Ahmanson, as in the “Home Savings & Loan” Ahmansons.

    If I understand correctly, Leroy Carver III of Carver Federal Savings Bank was the son of Roy Carver of “Roy Carver Rolls-Royce/Bentley and BMW located on Jamboree Rd. in Newport Beach adjacent to the Fashion Island shopping center. My family knew a long time Rolls-Royce sales representative up there (by the last name of Bentley – no joke) and I remember him telling me back in the day (mid-late 70’s) that Carver’s dealership was the #2 Rolls/Bentley dealership in the world behind the factory showroom in London. My father told me that Carver had previously been the Pontiac dealer and he traded out brands with the former Rolls-Royce dealership owner in the 1960’s and built it into a powerhouse, moneymaking business. He later sold it to billionaire Donald Bren. Carver Sr. owned an estate in Santa Ana Heights up at the top of the Upper Newport Bay on Mesa Drive.

  5. Kelly Gibson Beck says:

    Very well researched.
    As for the home: clearly, it was purchased to flip for a profit. However, the interior lacks ‘draw’. There is nothing inside the home that differentiates it from every other mansion in America. When buyers are touring homes, there has to be something in the home that they remember which ‘draws’ the buyer to purchase that specific home. The exterior is magnificent; it has ‘draw’. When the home sells, it will be the buyers memory of the exterior of the home that will decide to purchase.

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