While 2019’s first half was a particularly sluggish time for L.A.’s luxury real estate market, the back half made for the wildest year to date, bowing out with three $100+ million transactions and tallying no fewer than 17 other deals of $30 million or more.
And 2020 already seems on track for more of the same. Last month, a Hollywood Hills compound went for an unprecedented $75 million, and now another record sale has quietly been consummated. In late January, an imposing red-brick Tudor home in L.A.’s historic Hancock Park neighborhood quietly transferred off-market for a rather shocking $19 million, easily the biggest area transaction ever notched.
Sold by Nickelodeon president Brian Robbins and his wife Tracy James, the hulking structure was originally built in 1925 and sits on the premier block of what is arguably the neighborhood’s best street. In 2007, the property was acquired by prolific TV producer John Wells, who kept the old-world architecture intact but added more contemporary conveniences to the inside. About two years ago, he sold the estate to Robbins and James for a relatively paltry $12.4 million.
And the $19 million deal easily blows away the neighborhood’s previous-record holder, the 2015 sale of Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas’s storied Isidor Eisner estate, which went for $15.95 million to Netflix COO Ted Sarandos and his Beverly Hills-bred wife Nicole Avant.
What’s even more eye-popping about this latest transaction, however, is that the Isidor Eisner estate includes a much larger house — more than 15,000 square feet of living space, per tax records — on a double lot spanning more than 1.5 acres of flat land. The Robbins estate, by contrast, makes do a relatively modest .85 acres of elbow room.
It remains unclear what — if any — changes Robbins made to the property beyond the cosmetic alterations typical at this price point, though the much-increased pricetag indicates some extensive interior renovations were undertaken. But at the time the couple acquired it, in late 2017, the house sported 9 bedrooms and 11 baths in about 9,600 square feet of living space. There are (or were) a proper north/south-facing tennis court, multiple fireplaces, a double-height foyer, an eat-in kitchen with designer appliances, lustrous hardwood floors, manicured grounds, a gazebo and two-story pool/guesthouse with accessory living quarters.
The record-busting buyers, businessman Thomas J. Swan III and his husband Joe Townley, previously owned a different Hancock Park home that was purchased for $11.3 million in 2015 from legally-embattled developer Robert Quigg, who infamously fled the country shortly after.
Back in 2016, Swan told the Larchmont Chronicle that the Quigg house was, in essence, a mess; there were issues with the HVAC system, the garage door motors, wiring and chimney flues. Records show he sold that property late last year, in another off-market deal, for just $9.2 million to an Oaktree Capital managing director — a hefty $2.1 million loss before taxes, carrying costs and realtor fees.
But any past quality concerns and multimillion-dollar financial gut punches clearly didn’t dissuade Swan and Townley from upping their investment in the neighborhood. The couple’s new mansion, mostly hidden from passersby behind rigorously manicured ornamental hedges and carefully pruned trees, lies on the same tree-lined street as the homes of Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, Mercury Insurance founder George Joseph and actor Max Greenfield.
Robbins and James have moved on to a snazzy new Paul McClean-designed contemporary home in Beverly Hills they picked up last week, paying $16.8 million. They also continue to maintain a stunningly picturesque $7 million ranch up north in Carpinteria, Calif., acquired from Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi last summer.