After months spent sniffing around some of the Santa Barbara area’s most lavish homes, powerhouse video game exec John Riccitiello has gone big, settling on Montecito’s so-called “Sotto Il Monte,” a 10.9-acre Italian Renaissance-inspired estate originally designed in 1927 by venerated local architect George Washington Smith. The former longtime Entertainment Arts (EA) CEO — he’s been CEO of San Francisco-based video game software developer Unity Technologies since 2014 — paid a whopping $32.3 million for the premises.
The walled and gated compound was long owned by the late Frank J. Caufield, the cofounder of Silicon Valley’s Kleiner Perkins venture capital outfit, and is comprised of several different structures totaling at least 17 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms. Chief among those is the 18,000-square-foot main villa, which includes eight bedrooms and 12 baths; there’s also a three-bed guesthouse and separate six-bedroom staff building for the full-time gardeners, housekeepers, and and security personnel required to maintain a property of this magnitude.
Clad in cream-colored stucco, the main house fronts a vast pea gravel motorcourt accented by a central lily pond and two ancient trees. Beyond the front door, museum-quality interiors include intricate hand-carved ceilings, acres of golden travertine and other precious stone, and enough perfectly preserved original details to make the Smithsonian weep. Grandly scaled public spaces include formal living and dining rooms with human-sized fireplaces, a clubby library with walnut paneled walls, and a chef’s kitchen. Most every room offers French doors that spill out to a vast stone terrace with ample space for large events.
Besides the main house, guesthouse, and staff quarters, there are also a two-story poolhouse and two separate garage buildings: a four-car “everyday” garage by the main motorcourt, plus a climate-controlled accessory garage that provides storage for at least 20 more autos — at 3,400 square feet, it’s larger than many American homes. Other notable estate features include a solarium with a skylit indoor swimming pool, plus a “regular” outdoor swimming pool and championship tennis court. Three wine cellars — one for white wine, one for red, one for aging — round out the full-bodied real estate offering.
The estate’s grounds are a study in refined sophistication and comprise elaborate parterre gardens, vibrant bunches of roses, and pathways leading under a forest-like canopy of mature trees. Many of the gardens were designed in 1927 by noted landscape architect-turned-real estate developer A.E. Hanson., and they served as the setting for the televised wedding of Kim Kardashian and her second ex-husband, Kris Humphries.
Riccitiello, 63, has been a high-profile business tycoon for decades, particularly within the lucrative gaming industry, where he served 14 non-consecutive years as CEO of EA, best-known for FIFA, Madden NFL, The Sims, Need for Speed, and a host of other long-running franchises. He was also an early investor in Oculus VR, which was sold to Facebook in 2014 for $2.3 billion.