Way back in November 2012, as the global economy gingerly emerged from a long recession, an enormous Hollywood Hills estate sold for $39 million. That unprecedented sale price shocked all real estate observers and sparked an avalanche of gold-digging developers to build and market their own “trophy” modern mansions in the hills. Very soon, the 90069’s landscape was dotted with lookalike glassy compounds, all of them sporting flat roofs, sharp-edged infinity pools, and astronomical asking prices.
But nearly seven years later, as the high-end real estate market cools once more, that $39 million sale price still remains the most ever paid for a Hollywood Hills home. And perhaps fittingly, that original monster spec-mansion has returned to the market as a (literal) shell of its former self — walls torn down, landscaping ripped up, and the whole shebang is asking “just” $24.5 million — nearly $15 million less than the 2012 transfer.
Located in the coveted Bird Streets on a pie-shaped promontory known as the Crown, the 1.2-acre complex was famously owned by Jho Low, the fugitive Malaysian playboy and “Wolf of Wall Street” film backer known for allegedly orchestrating the 1MDB scandal that has ensnared everyone from Hollywood celebrities to financiers across the entire globe. Low briefly resided on the property following his purchase, but has been on the lam since 2015. Likewise, the house has been vacant and entangled in litigation since then.
Back in May, federal prosecutors reached an agreement with Low’s lawyers to sell the uninhabited compound, which reportedly costs an outrageous $690,000 in annual maintenance and taxes. The agreed-upon $24.5 million ask is indicative of the sluggish market, as well as the home’s unpretty current appearance. Ernie Carswell & Christopher Pickett of Douglas Elliman hold the listing, which specifies this is a “court ordered sale” and warns that the property will require “necessary improvements and restoration by an expert development team.”
It’s certainly worth noting that all these glossy listing images date to 2012, meaning they are clearly not representative of the long-vacant estate’s current condition. In fact, the property looks unrecognizable today, a warzone of half-finished construction and neglect. During his ownership, Low ripped the entire place apart — inside and out — and had been planning a multimillion dollar renovation before he quickly fled the country. Now, nearly all the landscaping is dead or gone, and the home’s lavish indoor and outdoor spaces have been completely gutted.
Of course, this property is still one of the largest and best view lots in the Hollywood Hills. And it’s still a trophy compound, shabby current condition notwithstanding. It also sports a celebrity history — the house was originally designed in the 1980s by fabled Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta for actor Ricardo Montalban, though that structure was radically altered and expanded to unrecognizable proportions by developer Nile Niami and architect Paul McClean — all prior to the 2012 sale to Low.
The massive complex features an approximately 13,000+ sq. ft. main house plus a detached four-car garage and guesthouse. A giant black gate and guard shack protect the entrance to the long driveway and motorcourt, ensuring celebrity-style privacy at all times.
Perhaps an A-lister or bargain-hunting billionaire will adopt this place as their pet project, though it will take a substantial amount of time and money — likely well into the millions — to bring this baby back to showroom-ready condition.
Incidentally, Low’s Manhattan penthouse in the Time Warner Center skyscraper has also just hit the market. With a 500 sq. ft. terrace overlooking Central Park and walls of glass, the contemporary showpiece is asking $30 million.