Someone big -- and important -- paid $38,000,000 recently for an 11,407-square-foot, Mediterranean-style mansion in Los Angeles' Bel-Air area.
But who? (and who was the seller, as well?)
The Wall Street Journal on Friday was the first to report on this transaction. The Journal correctly noted that the mansion, which is at 671 Siena Way in Bel-Air, once belonged to the family of Herbert Kalmus, "whose Technicolor Motion Picture Corp. provided the hues on many classic movies." The paper also mentioned that 64-year-old Verna Harrah, the widow of hotel and casino magnate Bill Harrah and a film producer in her own right, also later owned the home, which had not been on the market.
But the Journal completely whiffed on who the buyer was -- and for that matter, on the identity of the seller as well. (The paper noted only that the seller was the "Malibu Colony Trust" and the buyer was something called "Gacac LLC," but it didn't bother telling us who the people are behind these entities.) We find the Journal's hand-waving particularly puzzling, given how very few residential properties in America ever change hands for more than $35 million. When one does, it invariably involves someone noteworthy. So, let's try to get to the bottom of this, shall we?
And, let's start with the seller. Records show that the seller actually was named the Malibu Colony Beach Trust (and not what the Journal wrote), a trust that has been very active over the years buying and selling expensive Los Angeles County properties. It wouldn't have been hard for the Journal to figure out that the Nevada-based Malibu Colony Beach Trust (which has been described in a past "Hot Property" column in the Los Angeles Times as a "Nevada businessman") has made the following purchases and sales over the years of very high-profile and newsworthy, former celebrity-owned properties:
--In February 1997, the Malibu Colony Beach Trust paid an undisclosed amount to buy a 6,696-square-foot oceanfront house on Malibu Road in Malibu, Calif.
--In September 2000, the Malibu Colony Beach Trust sold that Malibu Road house to Netscape founder Marc Andreesen for $17,000,000, according to public records and an October 2000 "Hot Property" column in the Los Angeles Times
--Also in September 2000, the Malibu Colony Beach Trust paid $9,900,000 to purchase the house at 27560 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu from movie and TV mogul Barry Diller, according to public records and that same October 2000 Los Angeles Times column
--In January 2005, the Malibu Colony Beach Trust sold the former Diller home at 27560 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu to two philanthropists for $21,000,000, according to public records.
--In February 2005, the Malibu Colony Beach Trust paid an undisclosed amount -- reported (http://articles.latimes.com/2005/mar/13/realestate/re-hotprop13 ) to be in the $15 million to $17 million range -- to purchase author Sidney Sheldon's 18,806-square-foot home at 10250 W. Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles' Holmby Hills area, which had been on the market since the previous year for $23,000,000. The Malibu Colony Beach Trust then quickly turned around and sold the former Sheldon mansion in July 2005 for $16,000,000, according to public records.
--And then in August 2005, the Malibu Colony Beach Trust paid $14,951,000 to purchase the mansion (that we're discussing today) at 671 Siena Way in Bel-Air from Verna Harrah, according to public records. The trust then -- in the current transaction that we're discussing -- sold the mansion at 671 Siena Way for $38,000,000 on September 20, with the deed being recorded on October 1, according to public records. The sale amount only recently became available in public records.
So who is the person behind the Malibu Colony Beach Trust? We can't say definitively, but it sure looks to us like it's Henry Carlson "Carl" Parmer, Jr., a former radio and TV station entrepreneur. It might also be a Las Vegas developer and real estate agent named Madison B. Graves II (and no, we hadn't heard of him, either), but we'd lay our money on Parmer -- he's got the money for it (having negotiated the sales of two companies he founded to much larger broadcasting entities over the years), and we have pretty good evidence that 1) he was living in the Siena mansion in 2006; and 2) one property record from long ago actually shows him to clearly identified as the person behind the Malibu Colony Beach Trust. We're open to other interpretations (and we're sure that there will be some by our respected peers and competitors, once this post is published).
More tantalizing to us (and hopefully to you, as well), however, is the identity of the buyer of 671 Siena Way. Who -- in this climate, no less -- would cough up a whopping $38,000,000 for a mansion in Bel-Air? As we note above, the recent buyer is a limited-liability corporation called Gacac, LLC. Records show that Gacac, LLC also has purchased a smattering of other Los Angeles-area properties in recent years, including a 10,580-square-foot house at 1720 Green Acres Drive (a fairly celebrity-intensive street) in Beverly Hills, which it purchased in 2007 for $11,500,000, according to public records. In addition, Gacac, LLC's post-office box in Beverly Hills is the same as a post-office box belonging to a company called SGH Investments, LLC.
So who is behind Gacac, LLC? State incorporation records show that a woman named Mary Ann Sigler -- who is the chief financial officer of private equity Platinum Equity Group -- formed the company, and they also show a Los Angeles attorney named Robert W. Shaffer as being part of Gacac, LLC. Could Sigler have been the buyer? It's possible, but we wouldn't say it's probable. Read on for our thought process on who we think it is:
--Interestingly enough, Marc Andreesen himself could have been the buyer (although we highly doubt it). He certainly has the money for it, and the LLC company of his that continues to own that oceanfront Malibu property to this day is named Malibu CAC LLC. That LLC name s not *that* different of a name from "Gacac LLC."
--However, we think it's far, far more likely that the buyer behind Gacac, LLC is Platinum's founder, chairman and CEO Tom Gores. Too many things fit on this one. Gores currently lives in a 10,479-square-foot mansion in the Mulholland Estates area of the Beverly Hills Post Office that he has been in for a long, long time by Los Angeles standards (since buying it in mid-1999 for $4,595,000, according to public records), since he was just 34 or 35. Isn't it time for a trade-up to a more exclusive neighborhood? In addition, given Gores' private equity background, he clearly is a man who likes big deals. Plus, the first letter of Gores' last name matches the first letter of Gacac, LLC. And, records show that Gacac, LLC paid cash for the house -- something that few chief financial officers that we have ever known (and we have known a lot of CFOs over the years) would have the ability to do; that tips the scales for us that Gores was the buyer, rather than one of his employees.
(Some of you may remember Gores' name from our ill-fated March 2008 item that wondered if Gores had rented out his guest house up there in Mulholland Estates to Lindsay Lohan. Although that item ended up being untrue, Gores and his partners -- when not doing leveraged buyouts -- produced the 2007 Lohan stinker "I Know Who Killed Me," with Sigler earning a "thanks" in that film's movie credits as well.)
We almost forgot to mention features in the six-bedroom mansion at 671 Siena Way. They include 10 baths, a ballroom-theater and a pool, all on a 1.51-acre lot, according to public records and previous news accounts. Records show that Harrah had purchased it in 2000 for $8,500,000, according to public records and the Los Angeles Times' Ruth Ryon's October 2000 report. The Siena Way property is just across the street (and down a smidgen) from a 5,437-square-foot house on a little less than an acre (0.88-acre, or 38,328-square-foot) lot at 630 Siena Way that hairdresser/producer Jon Peters sold to a philanthropist in January 2008 (deal recorded in March 2008) for $8,200,000, according to public records.