Most homes in Laguna Beach — arguably Orange County, Calif.’s most expensive and desirable seaside town — sit hard up on the street, on relatively tight lots with minuscule yard space. Not so this estate, recently sold for about $10.4 million. The commendably private property sits at the very end of a dead-end lane, tucked behind large driveway gates and surrounded by an acre of lush grounds.
Also unusually, the seller was a charity organization — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, which was gifted the posh property in late 2017. At that time, the estate was valued at $8.5 million and made O.C. headlines for being the biggest donation ever received by the org. Local widow Beverly Ray Parkhurst donated the home in honor of her late husband William D. Ray, an orphan and WWII veteran who became a successful Newport Beach businessman before his 1991 death.
After a whirlwind all-cash escrow — the property sold just six days after first hitting the market — the new owner is Michael “Mike” Mussallem. While not exactly a household name, Mussallem ranks among the O.C.’s most prominent businessmen and is a bonafide rockstar in the biopharma world he orbits. As the chairman and CEO of Edwards Lifesciences for the last 20 years — he’s the only chairman and CEO the company has ever had — he presides over a leading manufacturer of artificial heart valves, and a firm behind some of the world’s biggest breakthroughs in cardiac care.
Mussallem’s new storybook home, originally built in 1960, is styled in the “Connecticut Farmhouse” vein with a pitched roof and wood siding. From the road, the steep driveway passes through gates before dead-ending at a substantial motorcourt with a detached three-car garage and covered parking for three additional vehicles. A long, wide, fairytale-like stone staircase ascends to the main house, passing by dozens of mature trees, a sparkling pond and lovingly terraced gardens inspired by Washington D.C.’s Dunbarton Oaks Museum, per the listing.
The vine-encrusted house looks to be in immaculate condition, with lustrous hardwood floors stained a deep brown, oversized stone fireplaces and rows of windows drinking in the ocean views. There’s an ebony-colored wet bar, library with magenta-tinged bookcases, a kitchen with aqua-hued cabinetry and a truly hedonistic upstairs master suite with lounge area, marble-encrusted fireplace, frilly bathroom with built-in soaking tub, dressing room and two walk-in closets.
A conservatory-like garden room opens directly to the serene backyard, where the Grecian-inspired circular pool and its fountain are surrounded by vines and wistful floral plantings. Behind the pool, a winding stone staircase leads up to a brick landing with more terraced gardens and head-on views of the sea.
Mussallem and longtime wife Linda, founders of the Down Syndrome-focused George and Bob Fund, currently reside elsewhere in Laguna Beach, in a 1990s Mediterranean-style mansion with 6,000 square feet of living space and a relatively puny .22-acre of land.