Though long eschewed by local rich folks, LA luxury condo living is finally — slowly but surely — coming into its own. Prices at the venerable Sierra Towers are as sky-high as the views, The Century is still popular, and the Ritz Carlton Residences at LA Live are completely sold out. Perhaps the most prestigious (and exclusive) condos in LA, however, are located at the Montage Residences in the downtown area of Beverly Hills, just a couple blocks away from world-famous Rodeo Drive. If y’all didn’t know, the Montage is a five-star hotel/condo complex and the Residences are located on the top three floors of the building. Owners have access to all the same concierge services as hotel guests, naturally. There are only 20 units in the building — four on the 6th floor, eight on the 7th floor, and eight on the 8th floor — all of which are in the hands of private owners. The average cost of entry is nearly $10 million.
Recently, one of the 20 residences at the Montage transferred in a secret off-market deal for an outrageous $19,700,000. That’s not only the highest price ever paid in the hotel, it utterly blows the previous record-holder ($14 million, paid by oil heiress Ariadne Getty in 2012) out of the water.
The seller of the unit — hedge funder Reagan Silber — made an absolute killing on his investment. Records show he bought the condo in 2011 for just $11,900,000, meaning he raked in an astonishing $7.8 million in profits (before those pesky taxes and fees, of course).
So who paid almost $20 million in what Yolanda happens to know was an all-cash deal? Records show the house was purchased by an LLC that is a known front for LA Fitness CEO Louis Welch and his longtime wife Michu Yi Welch, who was born in Korea.
For those who may not know, LA Fitness is a privately-owned gym chain that (despite the name) has 700+ locations in Canada and all across the United States, not just in LA. In fact, it’s the biggest non-franchised gym operation in the entire country and generates nearly $2 billion in revenue each and every year.
For such a large and successful business, the history and owners of the company remain somewhat shrouded in secrecy. It is known that the business was co-founded in 1984 by Mr. Welch and his business partner Chin Yol Yi (Mrs. Welch’s brother, we believe) and remains headquartered in Irvine, CA. Both partners are low-profile to the extreme — Yolanda can’t find any indication that either has ever granted a published interview, and pictures of them both are notoriously scarce. Yolanda practically had to ransack the entire internet to come up with a decent photo of Mr. Welch. Data about how the company grew so large is also rather lacking on the interwebs, so much so that the company’s “quiet ascension” eventually became a Harvard Business School case study.
It is known, however, that both LA Fitness co-founders — Mr. Yi and Mr. Welch — reside in Laguna Beach oceanfront homes, each of which cost more than $20 million apiece. About the only other detail Yolanda knows about Mr. Welch is that he is in his late 60s with three adult children and two grandchildren.
Anyway, we’re here to talk about the real estate. Unfortunately, however, we don’t have any photos of the unit Mr. & Mrs. Welch just bought. At 4,900-square-feet, however, it is one of the largest condos at the Montage and is located on the top floor (the 8th). Known features include 4 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, and the unit includes four dedicated parking spots in the hotel’s underground garage. There is a private elevator that is strictly for residents only (no hotel guest hoi polloi allowed).
This is not the Welches’ only unit at the Montage, however. Since early 2012, the couple have owned a smaller 3-bedroom spread on the seventh floor that they bought for $6,085,000. This particular unit has only 2,710-square-feet and 3 parking spaces but comes with access to all the same concierge services as the larger unit. The two condos are not contiguous in any way, and Yolanda is unsure if Mr. & Mrs. Welch plan to keep both or sell the smaller one, even though they clearly don’t need the money.
Below are some generic hotel photos included with the smaller unit’s old listing.
In 2008, Mr. & Mrs. Welch shook Orange County’s real estate market when they forked out $34,500,000 for an oceanfront house in guard-gated Emerald Bay. At the time, it was the second-highest price ever paid in Orange County. Though the deal has since been eclipsed several times, most notably by Patrick Soon-Shiong’s $45 million splurge last year and Larry Van Tuyl’s ungodly $55 million compound buy a few months ago, it remains in the top 10 of all-time in Orange County.
Believe it or not, the $34.5 million home is one of no fewer than four properties the Welch fam owns within the exclusive Emerald Bay gates.
Way back in 2001, Mr. & Mrs. Welch paid $4,500,000 for a house in Emerald Bay. But after moving into their new $34.5 million pad a quick jog away, the smaller house was sold in 2012 for $4,800,000 — significantly less than its fair market value — to their son Brendan, who continues to own and reside on the property. Then in March 2014, a model named Brittany Welch — who just happens to be Mr. & Mrs. Welch’s daughter — paid a fat $9,250,000 for a 6,500-square-foot Emerald Bay mansion. Scarcely two months later, the Welches’ younger daughter Courtney Welch paid $6,570,000 for yet another Emerald Bay house. Altogether, the Welch family has spent a rather astonishing $55,120,000 on their four homes in the Emerald Bay enclave.
Their $34.5 million main residence has four levels and an elevator in nearly 8,000-square-feet of living space with 65 feed of beach frontage. The swoopy contemporary was designed by a somewhat under-the-radar architect named Leason Pomeroy III.
Like all good real estate ballers, the Welches also have some fancy vacation homes. Their “winter” retreat is a 10,000+ square foot mansion in La Quinta, CA — out in the Palm Desert area. The contemporary sprawler — custom-built for Mr. & Mrs. Welch — includes an infinity pool overlooking a swanky gold course, and the property is located inside a secure gated community.
Perhaps the most interesting (former) property in the Welches’ portfolio, however, was their former penthouse at the Walker Tower in downtown Manhattan. In late 2014, the couple paid a shocking $40,730,000 — all of it in cash, according to the Observer — for the brand-new Penthouse #2. According to the agents at that time, the couple would remain based in California but planned to use the penthouse as their NYC pied-a-terre.
However, plans change. The Welches flipped the pad less than two years later — in summer 2016 — in a secret $45,000,000 off-market deal. Unfortunately, the $45 million buyer’s identity is shielded behind an entity that Yolanda is unable to crack.
Anyway, Mr. Welch is now one of only two individuals at the Montage Residences who own more than one unit. Our boy has units 7B and 8D. Australian shopping mall heiress Monica Saunders-Weinberg also owns two: units 7A and 8C, which she purchased for a combined total of $20,850,000.
Yolanda looked over property records for all 20 of the Montage Residences and many of the other units are owned by low-profile financiers and businessmen. Some of the more notable residents, however, are oil heiress Ariadne Getty, sharp-tongued TV star Judge Judy, philanthropic widow Hisako Terasaki, and powerhouse talent manager George Shapiro.