Though it contains barely 7,000 residents and only five square miles of land, the small but financially mighty Northern California town of Atherton is often ranked as the most expensive zip code in the United States. So it shouldn’t be surprising that all five of the Silicon Valley’s most expensive residential sales of 2018 went down in this quiet, idyllic community.
2018’s most expensive transaction, a $31 million estate deal, was sold to an executive at China’s Alibaba Group. Close behind was the $29.2 million transfer of another sprawling Atherton compound. While most folks suspected the buyer was either a local tech titan or a Chinese billionaire — Atherton’s two main buyer pools of late — neither was actually the case. Rather, the new owner is James Scapa, a man hailing from the faraway land of West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Scapa is the co-founder and current CEO of Altair Engineering, a Michigan-headquartered IT company focused on product design and engineering solutions, enterprise services and cloud computing. Over the past 34 years, Altair has grown to dozens of offices and over 2,000 employees worldwide. The company went public in late 2017, and its IPO was a resounding success — share values doubled within days of their NASDAQ debut, and have continued growing almost unstoppably ever since — the company now sports a whopping $2.7 billion market cap.
Anyway, Scapa’s lavish Atherton estate was built new in 2013 for the seller — Los Angeles Clippers minority owner Dennis Wong — by Pacific Peninsula Group, arguably Atherton’s most prolific mansion developer. Featuring interior design by Paul Wiseman and landscaping by Andie Cochran, the transitional contemporary home’s listing was represented by Mary & Brent Gullixson of Compass.
Sited genteelly on one of Atherton’s most coveted avenues, the resort-like compound includes practically every amenity known to mankind. The nearly 9,500 sq. ft. mansion has three distinct levels — all elevator-accessed, naturally — two offices, two family rooms, and six bedroom suites. Wide-plank hardwood floors grace the neutral interiors, and the gourmet kitchen has eat-in seating and custom cabinetry.
The home’s lower level includes a full-size fitness center with a “yoga area,” a 16-seat home theater, a golf simulator and wine cellar. A separate one-bedroom guesthouse has its own kitchen — a mini-replica of the one in the main residence — and another living/family room.
Every inch of the Scapa estate has been artfully landscaped — there are golf greens and a sandtrap, a sports court, a lap-lane swimming pool with inset spa, a giant stone Buddha overlooking a reflecting pool, and an outdoor kitchen with firepit. Best of all, the property has its own well for irrigating the spectacularly lush (but undoubtedly thirsty) grounds.
Atherton has long been famed for its tech-focused celebrities, and indeed, the current neighborhood resident roster reads like The Who’s Who of Silicon Valley. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, San Francisco 49ers owner Gideon Yu, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, Twitter chairman Omid Kordestani, former Google chairman Eric Schmidt, former PayPal COO David Sacks, and JD.com billionaire Richard Liu are just a sampling of the big-name homeowners who reside in the area.