Merv Griffin's announcement last week that his wholly owned investment company has agreed to purchase the Beverly Hilton is evidence that the real estate market--in at least some upscale places--apparently isn't suffering from the stock-market crash.
Another sign: "I just closed a big one," Bruce Nelson of Asher Dann & Associates in Beverly Hills said. He represented some Japanese buyers who paid $7 million in cash for one Beverly Hills home, then paid $5 million more for the house next door. And Nelson was involved in the sale of the $7-million house just a year ago, when it went for $5 million.
"So they paid $12 million for a tear down," Nelson said of his Japanese buyers, who plan to build what he termed "a major estate." The two-parcel, six-acre site on Strada Vecchia is across the street from the famous Kirkeby (TV's "Beverly Hillbillies") Estate, owned since last February by Hollywood entrepreneur Jerry Perenchio.
The Japanese actually plan to only tear down one of the houses, using the $5-million one for guests and part of the parcel as an entry to the new estate. The $5-million property was once owned by the late actress/singer Jeanette MacDonald, and it was later called home by the '60s folk/pop singers, the Mamas and the Papas.
Nelson also just represented the buyers of a house on Elm Drive that he believes is the highest price ever paid for a home in an area known as the Beverly Hills flats: $5.6 million. It was for a new house with three stories and an elevator in 18,000 square feet. The property also has a guest house, tennis court and swimming pool.
The buyers: an American couple moving from another house in Beverly Hills. "Some Australians bought it three months ago, but they had a change of plans," Nelson said.
At press time, Merv wasn't talking yet about his plans for the Beverly Hilton, though the entertainer told us recently that he "loves its showroom."
No word was out yet, either, on what he's paying for it, although several Beverly Hills realty sources figure it must be less than the $185 million paid by the Sultan of Brunei in October for the Beverly Hills Hotel.
There is some idea now, though, about what the sultan will do with his newly acquired hotel:
He will not close the entire hotel as he remodels, we're told, but will gut a third of the 60-year-old structure at a time, "retaining its feeling, keeping its integrity, remaining sensitive to its tradition, not changing its colors." Guess we won't have another gaudy Sunset Boulevard face lift like the now-demolished mansion of the sheik, who painted its walls lime green and its statues in natural hues.
The sultan will put what was described as "a fortune into the hotel, bringing it into the 21st Century."
About 20 members of his royal family got a look at it earlier this month when they stayed there for about a week, but I've been told that the sultan wasn't along. I also hear that although the sultan sent a representative to that New York Sotheby's auction, where Van Gogh's "Irises" sold for $53.9 million, the sultan was not the mystery buyer.
Preliminary drawings of the remodeled hotel are being made, and when work starts--and it will start soon--it is expected to be done quickly.
Wall Street's woes haven't discouraged developers of a new-home project in Rancho Mirage.
I've heard some hefty prices, but these are something else for the fifth phase of a subdivision: $840,000-$1.1 million, with the average price for the 42 homes at about $1 million!
The homes are part of Morningside, a joint venture of the Equitable Life Assurance Society and Trojan Properties, on (where else?) Morningside Drive. And for the first time, there are three models that can be seen this weekend.
When Kenny Rogers sold his seven-story 8730 Sunset Towers office building to Anthony Vincent Zehenni, the popular singer was in the process of renovating the Sunset Strip property.
Now, after spending more than $2 million on it, Zehenni has completed the rehab, including a screening room with private bar, rented on a per-hour basis, and a 6,000-square-foot office penthouse with fireplaces and swimming pool, available to lease at $16,500 a month.
Don Ferris of the L. J. Hooker International office in Beverly Hills, who is handling leasing, said that the screening room can be used for casting, movie and video recording, and parties of up to 50 people.
Rogers sold the property for more than $12 million, but we hear that he retained an interest in that ground-floor hot-spot, Nicky Blair's restaurant.
It's something--usually a whole lot of bucks--to have a building named after yourself, but to have a theater seat bearing your name? How cultured! And how--relatively, anyway--reasonable.