Courtesy of James McClain
Several Los Angeles residential mega-deals have been recorded this summer — all neatly in a row. Up in this “unicorn” category’s rarefied air, Uber’s Garrett Camp and Eliza Nguyen paid $72.5 million for a brand-new Beverly Hills estate, then China-based billionaire heir Johnson Zhang forked over $75 million for a Bel Air complex. And last month, the pop culture-famous Holmby Hills megamansion known as “The Manor” fetched a Californian record $119.7 million from a still-unidentified foreign buyer, providing further evidence of the ever-widening chasm between the merely well-to-do and the otherworldly rich.
And now, another recession-proof buyer looks to set real estate’s uppermost echelons alight once more. Though the transaction has not yet publicly recorded, it’s become widely known that the Malibu mega-compound of NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer is in escrow with a tech billionaire hailing from Northern California’s famously cash-flush Silicon Valley, the deal now all but done. While the rumored $100+ million sale price remains unconfirmed, the house has been available at a list of $125 million for over a year; unless the buyer is feeling unusually generous, the final figure will likely slot in comfortably below the $119.7 million Manor record.
And although the grant deed is not yet officially filed, two unrelated sources have both indicated that the tech billionaire new owner in question will be Jan Koum, the Ukrainian-born co-founder of WhatsApp, an international messaging service founded in 2009 and famously sold to Facebook in early 2014 for an unprecedented $19 billion. The acquisition — still easily the largest in Facebook history — made Koum and his business partner Brian Acton overnight multibillionaires. Both Forbes and Bloomberg estimate Koum’s personal net worth hovers somewhere around $10 billion, a substantial portion of which is liquid capital.
But if Silicon Valley gossip is to be believed, the WhatsApp-Facebook marriage has not been a happy union, at least from the perspectives of the former’s founders. Both Koum and Acton have since departed Facebook, reportedly after heatedly — and repeatedly — clashing with the tech giant’s head honchos Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg over the data privacy intrusions for which Facebook has become infamous.
As for the $125 million real estate, records show Meyer has owned his soon-to-be former Malibu property for over 20 years — since 1997, when he forked over approximately $5 million to buy the three-acre blufftop parcel from former CAA chief Mike Ovitz. He then hired the late, much-acclaimed architect Charles Gwathmey and spent two years and many millions building an immense contemporary compound. Completed just before the new millennium’s dawn, the property features a monolithic main house with nearly 14,000 square feet of living space alongside two wee guesthouses. Though enormous, the blocky complex isn’t out of scale with most neighboring properties — in fact, it lies directly between two other equally massive estates, one owned by multibillionaire Public Storage heiress Tamara Gustavson and the other by Bosnia-born socialite Diana Jenkins.
Sited directly above Malibu’s postcard-worthy Paradise Cove — arguably the most beautiful beach in the L.A. area — the house itself is invisible from the Pacific Coast Highway streetfront, sequestered behind an immense hedgerow and a towering driveway gate. A vast entrance gallery features a sculptural “floating” staircase and towering walls of glass, while the double-height dining room sports clerestory-style windows. The chef’s kitchen opens to a family room that spills out to the outdoor terrace adjacent to the perfectly rectangular pool. Somewhere inside is also a movie theater and a two-story library.
Fully landscaped and fanatically maintained, the acres of grounds include enormous swathes of grassy lawn and a full-size, properly positioned north/south tennis court. At the far rear of the property, an almost absurdly long and zigzagging staircase leads down the cliff to the frigid Pacific Ocean’s edge. Remarkable sunset views broadly sweep the California coastline as they stretch from Point Dume all the way down to the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Catalina Island on the horizon.