Earlier this week, Nile Niami announced he had sold his infamous Opus estate in Beverly Hills. Originally listed at $100 million, the 20,000 sq. ft. mega-mansion went for “about $40 million” in a deal involving both the property and various pricey accessories, which were sold separately. The total value of the transaction, according to Niami — arguably L.A.’s best-known developer of outrageous spec-mansions — topped $50 million. More remarkably, the deal was consummated without the aid of any realtors.
And indeed, according to county documents, the house was quietly resold for $38.3 million in a deal recorded last week, with the aid of a $28.6 million mortgage. The new owner is shielded behind a limited-liability company.
However, the full story is significantly more complex. As the Wall Street Journal first revealed, the mysterious buyer is a longtime personal friend of Niami’s, Dr. Joseph Englanoff, who also happens to be one of the several individuals and entities that provided him many millions of dollars for financing the home’s construction.
Englanoff is also a prolific L.A. mansion developer, though perhaps not quite so well-known as Niami. Last year, he sold a sleek new home on Malibu’s exclusive Carbon Beach for $29.1 million to Joe Lacob, majority owner of the Golden State Warriors. He also was the principal owner of a Bird Streets mansion that sold in 2016 for $32.5 million.
According to a source with knowledge of the transaction, the $38.3 million Opus transfer was not a standard sale, and Englanoff does not intend to live in the property. Rather, he has already announced plans to give the house a “light” remodel and swap out the existing furniture for newer bespoke pieces. Very soon after that, according to the source, the property will return to the market — at a substantial price increase — and continue seeking a new owner, this time on behalf of Englanoff.
And while the deal did, according to the source, include several of Niami’s “toys” — including exotic automobiles — the total value of the unconventional exchange came nowhere remotely close to $50 million. Indeed, it may not have even topped $40 million.
It’s all a rather sudden and surprising end to Niami’s long-running Opus saga. In late 2012, he paid $9.8 million for the one-acre parcel, which is tucked away on one of the best streets in the coveted Trousdale Estates enclave. He then razed the existing house — a humble single-story structure built in 1963 — and commissioned spec-mansion architect Paul McClean to design a 20,000 contemporary mansion with two swimming pools, two kitchen, acres of glass walls and an underground auto museum for a trophy car collector buyer.
According to Niami himself, Opus was originally expected to fetch $40 million. In 2014, however, fellow developer Bruce Makowsky sold the similarly-sized house next door for a record-shattering $70 million to Minecraft billionaire Markus Persson, launching similarly lofty expectations for Niami’s own spec-project.
In 2016, Niami boldly declared he was “going to ask 90 [million]” for the house. By the time it eventually came to market, in mid-2017, the pricetag had swollen even further — to an even-steven $100 million.
By all measures, Niami succeeded in making Opus the talk of the real estate world — the house debuted with a highly controversial and risqué marketing video, The three-minute clip featured nude women, covered in gold paint, cavorting together in bed. Jaws dropped and media outlets fell over themselves to write up the sexy marketing. But the video didn’t sell the house.
By 2019, the property had gone through at least two different realtor teams, a more conventional marketing video had been filmed, and the pricetag had plunged to $59.995 million. By then, however, the market for glassy spec-mansions had grown cold, and still no buyer surfaced before the recent $38.3 million transfer — a whopping 61.7% discount off the asking price.
With his clock ticking under the weight of a jumbo mortgage, it seems likely that Englanoff will waste little time undertaking his planned renovations and improvements. Before 2020’s end, the public will likely be seeing a very familiar — if slightly nipped and tucked — residential face return to the market, praying for a less frosty reception.