Fears that Brexit could plunge the global economy into a chaotic tailspin as well as nail-biting anxieties about a potential Trump presidency, or a Clinton one for that matter, have yet to make too much of a negative impact on the celebrity property market. Indeed, over the last six months it’s been ridiculously commonplace for entertainment and media industry elites to buy and sell homes for between $10 million and 20 million dollars.
John Legend and Chrissy Teigen paid $14.1 million for a contemporary Beverly Hills mansion once owned by Rihanna; Ben Stiller coughed up $15.3 million for a house-sized condo in Manhattan’s West Village; and Tyler Perry sold his opulent 35,000-plus-square-foot French Provincial mega-mansion in suburban Atlanta, GA, for a $17.5 million. As historically astronomical as those prices may be — and not too long ago prices like those would have been record-breaking — they’re little more than child’s play when it comes to the ultra-high-end real estate big leagues where nowadays the most financially fortunate famous folk frequently spend well over $25 million on lavishly outfitted trophy homes.
Money-minting international entertainer Jennifer Lopez has so much dough she didn’t even have wait to sell her 17,000-square-foot mansion in the guard-gated Hidden Hills enclave in suburban Los Angeles, now listed at $12.5 million, before she splashed out $28 million for an eight-acre estate in the Stone Canyon area of L.A.’s Bel Air that actress Sela Ward and her venture capitalist husband Howard Sherman had listed at just under $40 million. Anchored by a 14,000-square-foot multi-level main house that opens to extensive terraces shrouded in tropical foliage, the casually plush compound, arguably more five-star resort than average family home, additionally includes a guest cottage, art studio, open-air entertainment pavilion, 100-seat outdoor amphitheater, infinity edged swimming pool, putt-putt mini-golf course, and a pebble lined swimming hole so private even a superstar paparazzi-magnet like JLo can skinny dip without concern.
Strongheart Manor, Richard Gere’s 6.2-acre compound near Sag Harbor in the Hamptons, first hit the market in 2013 with an exuberantly rose-tinted asking price of $65 million. Over the years the price fell to $36.5 million before veteran “Today” host and longtime Hamptonite Matt Lauer came along and, just last month, took it off his hands for a reported price of $33 million. Gere may have settled for almost half of what he originally wanted but the Golden Globe-winning global humanitarian still stands to pocket a good-sized fortune on the property that he and his estranged wife, actress Carey Lowell, acquired in three separate transactions between 2005 and 2008 for a total of $11.3 million.
Lauer’s new bayfront compound has a total of 12 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms divided between a roomy main house and two spacious guesthouses. Expansive grounds provide verdant sweeps of lawn, a 60-foot-long swimming pool, half-court basketball court, 300 feet of bay frontage, and a screened teahouse picturesquely positioned on a small island in the middle of a private pond.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick drew some pearl-clutching real estate gasps of disbelief, and probably more than a little envy, when they forked out a whopping $34.5 million for a pair of side-by-side fixer-upper townhouses in the heart of New York City’s West Village that will surely require another considerable fortune to renovate and combine into a single residence. Owned since the 1920s by the United Methodist Women’s group, which used them mostly as office and meeting space, the elegant but down-on-their-heels townhouses together have 50 feet of street frontage and encompass around 13,900-square-feet of interior space with another 2,100 square-feet or so of private outdoor space.
As excessive as it may seem to mere pecuniary mortals, for those with the financial firepower to do so it’s becoming quite the real estate rage in Manhattan to buy and combine two and even three townhouses into one super-sized urban mansion. In May, Facebook co-founder Sean Parker spent $16.5 million to acquire a townhouse next door to another one he bought in 2010 for $20 million; former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg coughed up $14 million for one of the two remaining apartments he doesn’t own in an Upper East Side townhouse co-operative that he’d like to combine with his current townhouse residence next door; and Russian multibillionaire Roman Abramovich was granted permission by the city to combine three adjoining townhouses on a plum block on the Upper East Side — bought for a total of $78 million — into a single residence of more than 18,000 square feet.
In the fall of 2015 we heard though the celebrity real estate gossip grapevine that Tom Cruise floated his Beverly Hills mansion as a whisper listing with a much whispered about price tag of around $50 million. And, sure enough, he sold the heavily fortified 1.3-acre estate last month for $38 million to private equity honcho Leon Black. Cruise bought the estate in April 2006 for $30.5 million from Platinum Triangle real estate power player Kurt Rappaport, co-founder of the Westside Estate Agency, and shared it with his now third ex-wife Katie Holmes during their 6-year marriage. The grey stone manor house measures more than 10,000 square feet and the property also provides a couple of apartments for staff and/or guests. The reliably bankable movie star also hopes to cash out on his nearly 300-acre rustic-luxe ranch outside of Telluride, Colo., that first came up for sale over 1.5 years ago at $59 million and remains available at the same price.
Property records do not yet reflect a transfer of ownership but it has been widely reported that fashion designer Tom Ford agreed to pay boutique hotelier Brad Korzen and maximalist decorator Kelly Wearstler a bone-rattling $53 million for the former Beverly Hills estate of “James Bond” producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. Wearstler and Korzen bought the 3.2-acre spread at the base of Trousdale Estates in 2005 for $25 million. They gave it an over-the-top decorative re-do and had it on the open market for about a minute in 2010 with a $46 million price tag. The glammed-up Hollywood Regency-style main house, designed by Russian-born architect James Dolena and once owned by actor William Powell, measures in at more than 11,000 square feet with 8 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms according to listing details from 2012 when the property popped up for sale again at $46 million. The fully landscaped grounds also include a two-bedroom guesthouse, swimming pool, and tennis court.
In the last couple of months David Geffen has made not just one but two mega-deals in the Hamptons. First, he shelled out $70 million in a covert, off-market deal for a two-acre ocean-front estate in East Hampton and, shortly thereafter, the philanthropic contemporary art collector, who earlier this year sold two paintings to hedge fund titan Kenneth Griffin for $500 million and donated $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art to finance a renovation and expansion, made another clandestine deal to unload a 5.5-acre, multi-parcel pond-front property less than a mile away for a not yet recorded but widely reported $67.3 million. Lucky Mister Geffen, whose $6 billion fortune means he needs ten or 15 million dollars about as much as a fish needs an egg beater, made out like a bandit on the deal as he bought the four-parcel estate only about two years ago for $50 million from education-oriented philanthropist Courtney Sale, widow of late Time Warner CEO Steven Ross. The new owners, a consortium of developer-investors, have already flipped three of the four parcels back on the market with a combined price of just under $55 million.
The recent spate of $25-million-plus sales probably lends a comforting sense of real estate optimism to the slew of famous folk still looking to unload a prodigiously priced trophy home, particularly those who have already lopped a bundle off their sky-high original asking prices. Demi Moore slashed the price of her titanic triplex penthouse atop the San Remo building in New York City from $75 million to $59 million; Joel Silver’s ocean-front house on Malibu’s Carbon Beach carries a heavy-duty price tag of $57.5 million; Celine Dion’s epic oceanfront estate on Florida’s Jupiter Island, first saddled with a wildly unrealistic $72 million price, is now listed at $45.5 million; producer Jane Rosenthal’s sprawling apartment in the legendary Dakota building in New York City has a $39 million price tag; and sitcom staple Kevin James has his ocean-view estate in Delray Beach, Fla., available at a bit less than $29 million.