Last summer, an idiosyncratic Malibu property sold for exactly $40 million in a cash deal, a little less than half the original $81.5 million asking price. Best-known as the Johnny Carson estate, after the iconic TV personality who owned it for decades, the compound was sold by producer Sidney Kimmel, who had purchased the 4.16-acre spread in 2007 from Carson’s widow Alexis for $36.5 million. But it wasn’t publicly known until now that the discount buyer was Riaz Valani, the low-profile Silicon Valley veteran who amassed a tremendous fortune as very first investor in Juul, the e-cigarette juggernaut that made vaping mainstream and was, at its peak in 2018, valued at a whopping $38 billion.
Juul’s valuation has since collapsed to sub-$5 billion levels, but the company’s rise made its founders Adam Bowen and James Monsees individual billionaires, however briefly. They owe much of that success to Valani, according to Juul’s first marketing director Kurt Sondegger, who told Vice in an interview that Valani was the only angel investor to initially back Bowen and Monsees, putting $2 or $3 million behind a product that was still, back in 2010, a “complete failure.” Valani’s longshot bet paid off — big time — when Marlboro parent company Altria paid an astronomical $12.8 billion for 35% of Juul in 2018.
The ex-Carson Malibu compound is unique on several fronts, beginning with the fact that the blufftop Point Dume spread is effectively bisected by a street, meaning that anyone attempting to walk from the main house to the guest quarters must first cross a public road.
On the bluff side of the property, there are two gated driveways, one leading down a flower-lined and tree-shaded drive to the two-bedroom main house, which was designed by acclaimed, boundary-pushing architect Ed Niles in 1980 and is thrillingly cleaved to a steep cliff, perched perilously over the Pacific Ocean far below. The other driveway leads to an accessory motorcourt, where there’s parking for dozens of cars, plus a guardhouse for a full-time security detail.
Valani and his longtime associate Augusta Tigrett — the daughter of Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Isaac Tigrett and the late Maureen Starkey, Ringo Starr’s ex-wife — now enjoy a triangular mansion with approximately 7,000 square feet, including an enormous indoor gallery planted with trees, both formal and informal dining rooms, and a so-called “Asian lounge” with a theater area and onyx-topped wet bar. The home’s entire second floor is devoted to the Chinoiserie fireplace-equipped master suite, where there are dual closets, dual offices, and dual bathrooms, both of them slathered in onyx.
Out back, Valani and Tigrett will find numerous places to vape in peace; the jungle-like landscaping includes tropical plantings, a koi pond with its own waterfall, and a second waterfall cascading over a rock sculpture, into a pool/spa combo with dazzling views up and down the coastline.
Across the street, on an island-like parcel ringed entirely by a public roadway, lie guest quarters and other resort amenities. There’s a full-size tennis court adjoined by a 2,700-square-foot viewing pavilion, including a gym and locker room, plus a separate lounge, kitchen, and two guest suites. Elsewhere area also a detached one-bedroom cottage for an estate manager, and separate offices for the live-in caretaker and the homeowner’s private bodyguards. Towering eucalyptus trees shade the park-like property, providing the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon puffing away on Juul’s nifty slate device, now retailing for a bargain $9.99.