Last month, former Dreamworks CEO-turned-founder of the struggling Quibi venture Jeffrey Katzenberg electrified L.A.’s luxury real estate market by inking a deal to sell his custom-built Beverly Hills home for $125 million in cash. That figure represents the third-largest residential transaction ever closed in California, behind only David Geffen’s $165 million Beverly Hills sale to Jeff Bezos and Lachlan Murdoch’s $150 million Bel Air deal, and is particularly notable since the Hollywood mogul’s home was never publicly marketed for sale.
Multiple sources now say that the mysterious buyer of Katzenberg’s palatial estate was not a U.K.-based family, as was initially reported, but rather multibillionaire American tech tycoon Jan Koum, the co-founder of WhatsApp and a man with a well-documented affinity for trophy real estate. Besides his new 90210 digs, Koum maintains two other private estates valued at close to $100 million.
Records and previous reports indicate Katzenberg acquired the 6.4-acre property in 2009 for $35 million from the late physicist Simon Ramo, the so-called father of the intercontinental ballistic missile. At that time, the lot contained a sprawling midcentury modern house, though Katzenberg quickly razed that structure and replaced it with a modern farmhouse extravaganza designed by Napa-based architect Howard Backen.
Set on a hillside promontory, the U-shaped mansion has more than 26,000 square feet of living space, according to tax records, with 5 bedrooms and a whopping 13 bathrooms. Because the estate was never on the market, most of the other interior details remain opaque, but aerial imagery shows the fortified compound includes an epic driveway hundreds of feet long, off-street parking for dozens of cars, mature trees, formal gardens, and a prairie-sized swath of rectangular lawn in the backyard. At the southwest corner of the lot, there’s an infinity-edged swimming pool with sweeping views over the entire L.A. basin, from the downtown L.A. skyline to the Pacific Ocean.
The house is located in the exclusive Trousdale Estates neighborhood of Beverly Hills, which is also home to a number of other successful tech moguls — among them Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, who paid $72.5 million for his own mansion last year, and Minecraft billionaire Markus “Notch” Persson, who plunked down $70 million for his own internet-famous mansion.
Koum, now in his mid-40s, has been flush with cash since 2014, when he and co-founder Brian Acton sold WhatsApp to Facebook in a $19.3 billion deal, though the Ukrainian-born engineer departed Facebook in 2018 after clashing with Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg over data privacy. According to Forbes, Koum’s current net worth hovers around $10 billion.
Though he’s long been based in California’s Bay Area, Koum made big L.A. real estate waves last summer, when he paid exactly $100 million for Hollywood mogul Ron Meyer’s blufftop Malibu mansion. That house sits on a multi-acre promontory above the seaside city’s stupendously scenic Paradise Cove, though it’s not all fun and games — Koum recently sued his next-door Malibu neighbor, accusing her of, among other things, illegally pruning his hedges and displaying “Karen-like” behavior.
Besides his Malibu and Beverly Hills mansions, Koum continues to maintain his longtime main residence, a nearly $100 million, multi-structure compound in Atherton, Calif., the Silicon Valley town frequently ranked as one of the priciest neighborhoods in the United States.
Some of Koum’s myriad other pricey toys include an $8.8 million “starter” house in Atherton, plus a $5.5 million mansion in Hillsborough, Calif., an elaborate converted warehouse in Burlingame, Calif., where he stores a portion of his world-class Porsche collection, and two superyachts, one a 241-foot boat known as Mogambo, the other a 180-footer christened Power Play.
As for Katzenberg, he hasn’t yet purchased his next L.A. residence, though he and longtime wife Marilyn plan to stay in the area, according to their spokesperson. He continues to own vacation homes on Malibu’s Carbon Beach and in Park City, Utah; his adult son and daughter, meanwhile, also maintain multimillion-dollar homes in Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills, respectively.