Hearst Estate in Beverly Hills Marked Down: Is It a Bargain at $95M?

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Wanted: A billionaire with a healthy respect for history and a need for a lot of bedrooms.

The legendary Beverly Hills home once owned by William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies has been put on the market by its owner ( a bankrupt lawyer-real estate investor) for $95 million -- down from its 2007 listing price of $165 million.

Why the dramatic price drop? Market realities, which may spill over to the two other area mega-mansions -- Candy Spelling's home listed at $150 million and Fleur de Lys listed at $125 million.

Is this home a bargain or just another over-the-top listing that will sit in the MLS growing cobwebs?
The years have been unkind to many in Hollywood, but the Hearst mansion seems to have weathered her years well, despite being owned by a lawyer-real estate investor who has filed for bankruptcy. Sources say that Leonard Ross owes $22 million on the estate (which at one time topped a list of "America's Most Expensive Homes" in Forbes). While the Hearst property isn't in as pristine condition as Spelling's home or Fleur de Lys, it's far from a tear-down. In fact, there are parts of the original house that couldn't be rebuilt today, should some uncouth lout consider tampering with history here. And besides, why bother with the hassle when, if it's newer construction you seek, you can just go to Beverly Park and build one from scratch without all those preservationists breathing down your neck?

The Hearst compound, which sits on 6.5 acres on a hilltop above the Beverly Hills Hotel, was built in 1926 and featured in the film, "The Godfather." The estate consists of six separate residences with a total of 29 bedrooms and more than 50,000 square feet of living space, three swimming pools and a movie theater. It is arguably the most famous property in Beverly Hills. The H-shaped mansion has massive gardens original landscaped by Paul Thiene, a stone-paved motor court and it's where Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy honeymooned (see photo below).

It was named Beverly House by Hearst, the most powerful publishing magnate of the 20th century, who moved there in 1946. It's one of those "if the walls could talk" properties that needs a special kind of owner who appreciates its value both in terms of the real estate market and history. The Beverly House was built by banking executive Milton Getz and designed by architect Gordon B. Kaufmann.

Jeff Hyland of Hilton and Hyland, exclusive affiliate of Christie's Great Estates located in Beverly Hills has the listing. Hyland, author of the coffee table book, "The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills," has co-listed both Spelling's mansion and Fleur de Lys as well, which in real estate circles is like winning the Triple Crown.

He says the three estates are very different in style, offering a great choice for a buyer in this price range. Spelling's home is in mint condition and Fleur de Lys is "move-in ready," he said. He suggests that the Hearst estate's buyer might want to build a new commercial kitchen and upgrade the bathrooms, but beyond that, "the house is a gem." Many international buyers, he said, prefer homes with lots of bedrooms like this. The main residence has 16.

"This is the kind of home that comes on the market once in a generation," Hyland said.

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