The 540-acre San Ysidro Ranch, the Montecito retreat once co-owned by Hollywood star Ronald Colman, is being bought by a San Francisco partnership that owns the posh, 45-room Napa Valley resort, Auberge du Soleil (Inn of the Sun) .
And an adjacent property, also owned by Colman, was just purchased by psychologist Robert Shafer and his wife, Nancy, who plan to turn the 1941 country home built by the actor who died in 1958, into a Mediterranean-style villa.
First, the ranch, listed recently among the 300 best-operated hotels in the world. It has been a celebrity hideaway for years and was where John F. Kennedy honeymooned.
In a phone call from Maine, where he and his wife, Susie, already maintain a house and where they plan to become hotel consultants, Jim Lavenson, who has owned the ranch with his wife for the past 11 years, said escrow will close Sept. 30.
He also said, "They made us an offer we couldn't refuse," and wouldn't divulge. Except: "It's more than $5 million."
The Lavensons spent a decade renovating the ranch, which first welcomed overnight guests in 1893. Now it has 22 cottages, with 43 accommodations renting from $149 to $259 a night; a swimming pool, restaurant, tennis courts and riding stables.
A visitor can bed down his or her own horse for $20 a night, gourmet hay included, or keep a small dog in a guest room for $6 extra a night, European plan (take your own dog food).
Next, the former Colman home.
Paul O'Keeffe, the real estate broker who represented the Shafers (ex-Beverly Hills residents who moved to Santa Barbara about 15 years ago), said, "I sold their ocean-front estate at Hope Ranch and searched all over Montecito for a replacement." Then he showed them the former Colman property, now owned by Jon Sorrell.
O'Keeffe described Sorrell as "a brilliant investor, who last year bought and sold actor John Ireland's estate." Sorrell bought the former Colman home about three months ago. It was listed then at $1.95 million and went for more, O'Keeffe said, when the Shafers purchased it.
Sorrell wasn't planning to sell right away but had plans to remodel, plans that the Shafers liked. "So he will design and supervise construction for them," O'Keeffe explained. "It will be an eight-month construction period."
Bob Stein of Ticor Title & Insurance, who handled title insurance for the transaction, said the property was 10 acres in size when purchased by one-time state Sen. Alvin Weingant in the late '30s for $10,000.
Weingant subdivided the property, now 4.5 acres, in 1939, about the time Colman purchased it. Colman later named the place "Random House" for the 1942 movie "Random Harvest," in which he starred. The actor and his wife, Benita, used the home for vacations and weekends.
Colman also installed a gate at one end of the property to gain access to the San Ysidro Ranch, which he owned for a time with Weingant, who eventually bought out Colman and sold to the Lavensons. Colman's weekend home was beautifully landscaped by Lockwood de Forest, whom O'Keeffe called "the Frank Lloyd Wright of landscape architects."
Actor George Segal's house, described as "a mini estate behind gates" on Shadow Hill Way in Beverly Hills, is for sale at $3.5 million, and actress Eva Gabor's home, which extends from one street to another in Holmby Hills, is on the market for $4.8 million.
Both are listed with Thelma Orloff of Stan Herman & Associates, Beverly Hills, who said that Segal is selling because he is moving to Connecticut, and Gabor is selling "because the house is too big for her."
Gabor's home has a swimming pool, pool house, tennis courts, outside offices and a rose garden. Segal's, which is country-French in style, has four bedrooms and five baths.
"Student Buys Teacher's House" could be the headline for this item, phoned in by Dennis Moore, who describes himself as a black fellow originally from the ghetto who made good.
Twenty years ago, Moore took a class from real estate instructor John Lumbleau. The other day, Moore bought Lumbleau's Beverly Hills estate, listed at $3 million by Valerie Palicci of Mike Silverman & Associates.
"I bought it for $2.6 million," Moore, now semi-retired at age 47, said proudly. "I'm a living witness that you don't need to be a genius or sell dope to make money. A person can do really well in real estate by just putting in the energy."
After enrolling in Lumbleau's class, Moore invested his $5,000 savings in apartments. During the next 20 years, he concentrated on the acquisition, ownership and management of rental properties.
"My properties were in the inner city, and they were tough to manage," he said, "but I hung in there, and they allowed me and my family to move to Beverly Hills." For the past 20 years, he lived in Baldwin Hills.
And what about his new home? He sighed. "I'm just sitting here admiring my 60- to 80-foot tall trees, Olympic-size pool, nine-stool wet bar, tennis court, sauna and two or three spas. And I think, 'Did this really happen to me?!' " His 7,000-square-foot home is on 1.5 flat acres on Rexford Drive, behind the Beverly Hills Hotel.