Don't be surprised if Donald Trump buys or builds in Los Angeles.
Blanche Sprague, an executive veep in charge of the Manhattan real estate mogul's residential developments, said last week by phone from New York, "You never know. If the project is glamorous, chic and exciting, he might. I think he thought the Beverly Hills Hotel was exciting enough to consider."
The hotel was recently purchased by the Sultan of Brunei, but Trump and the sultan were both unsuccessful bidders against oilman Marvin Davis in December, 1986.
"He thinks California is fabulous," Sprague went on, talking about Trump. "He loves Los Angeles. L.A. is the kind of town for an entrepreneurial-type guy. And we're starting to show up everywhere."
Trump's New York City skyscrapers and Atlantic City casinos have been well publicized, but now he and Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca are financially turning around twin 32-story condo towers in Palm Beach, Fla., that they bought after loans on the project were in default.
Now known as Trump Plaza of the Palm Beaches, the ocean- and lake-view project is drawing European buyers as well as snowbirds and full-time residents, she said. Prices range from $272,000 to $1.5 million--a bargain by Trump's Manhattan standards.
Sales at the Florida project are approaching the 40% mark and are going so well, says Sprague, that prices will be raised 10%-20% on Nov. 1, despite the stock market debacle--the plunge that Trump managed to escape by selling off his $500 million worth of holdings. He announced that he actually made a profit in the past few weeks of about $200 million! (There's another reason to wonder if he'll invest in California.)
"Want to know my comment about what Wall Street has done for us?" Sprague asked. "Today, a man who bought $15 million in apartments from us in New York came to see me with his architect and interior designer and said, 'I'd really like a sauna.' But he couldn't find a place for a sauna, so he bought another apartment, adjacent to his others, for $1.5 million.
"The fluctuations of the market have not hit us greatly. It's like buying jewels at Harry Winston's during the Depression. The type of person who comes to Mr. Trump is at the top of their industries. By the time they come to us, they're so flush, they can buy $5,000 mink teddy bears.
"I have people buying two or three apartments, putting them together for fourth and fifth homes, even in Florida."
Iacocca has a penthouse in the Florida towers, but Trump has owned Mar-A-Lago, the former Marjorie Merriweather Post estate nearby, since 1985. That's how he got interested in the failing towers. He could see them from his windows at Mar-A-Lago and thought he could do better with the project than its original developer.
Speaking of Palm Beach, Trump and his wife plan to dock their newly acquired yacht there for the winter. Trump bought the 282-foot yacht, the Nabila, for $30 million last month.
Trump's yacht was built by Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi for more than $100 million, but the Sultan of Brunei took possession of it earlier this year when Khashoggi defaulted on a loan.
On other subjects . . .
The real-estate saga of fallen televangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker continues:
Dick Rosenzweig and his wife, Judy, were taking a little stroll in the flats of Beverly Hills the other day when a sign for an open house on Crescent Drive caught Judy's eye. Then she saw a man coming out of the house.
"Isn't that Jim Bakker?" she asked her hubby. She was right, Dick said, and Tammy was waiting in the car.
Some snooping revealed that the Bakkers were looking for a house to lease with an option to buy, he said. The Crescent Drive house was for sale at $1.8 million, for lease at $7,000 a month.
Producer/director/writer Norman Lear has a new home on Tower Grove Drive in Beverly Hills.
He bought it from Mary Jarre, ex-wife of French composer Maurice Jarre.
The Tudor-style house has been described as a "genuine estate with a 300-foot-long driveway." Public records show that it has five bedrooms and six baths in 7,840 square feet. The home and swimming pool sit on nearly three acres.
Lear paid about $3.3 million. Even so, we're told that the creator of "All in the Family" and executive producer of the currently popular movie "The Princess Bride" is planning a major remodeling.
Well, why not? The house was built in 1930.
Preservationists have until January to come up with a buyer to maintain the famous Ambassador Hotel, but there is some developer interest in tearing it down, even from overseas, says Mike Silverman, who just returned from a month in Europe.
During his trip, he was given a proposal, he says, of $60 million for the hotel property, 23.5 acres of prime mid-Wilshire real estate. That seems to be about the going rate.
John Grinch, the New York broker representing the hotel owners, says his clients never set an asking price, "but we're talking to people in the $60-million range."