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Estate of the Art : Homes: Looking for a $35-million 'bargain'? Then tour this high-tech, high-end ranch without even leaving the house.

September 23, 1990|KENNETH J. GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Westside property goes, the place is pretty impressive. But what sets the 70-room Brentwood compound apart from the other multimillion-dollar estates are not the 65 televisions, the 95 telephones, the vast model-train layout, the casino, the screening room or even the two plastic horses in the pasture.

It's the video.

Here is a private estate so large and so elaborately detailed that it requires its own 50-minute production tape to describe the wonders within. A full-color brochure, complete with a room legend, is also available.

And for $35 million, so is the property. They'll even throw in the plastic horses.

"The Ranch" is the video title given to the 112-acre Mandeville Canyon spread that was once owned by the late film star Robert Taylor. The property has been completely remodeled by current owner Ken Roberts, who says he has tried to construct the "ultimate estate."

And now he's just trying to sell it. Although the lavish furnishings and sprawling grounds certainly qualify it as a hot property, the reception during the past two years has been lukewarm. The price recently was reduced from $45 million. Roberts insists that his country palace is now a legitimate bargain and that it is only a matter of time before a Saudi prince comes calling.

"I just took my imagination and tried to think of what would be the ultimate in living enjoyment and convenience," Roberts said. "I designed it with features that I like and those that I thought others would enjoy. The only thing that's really missing is a heliport. But there's plenty of room for one."

Real estate agents say the ranch is probably the largest estate property on the Westside of Los Angeles. The developed section, which includes a 12,000-square-foot house, a 3,500-square-foot guest cottage and a 4,100-square-foot office complex, occupies only seven acres on the property. The remaining 105 acres consist of rugged hillsides and canyons that could conceivably be subdivided and developed someday.

The owner said he decided to keep it as one huge private estate rather than subdivide it for a series of multimillion-dollar homes--as hotel magnate Rick Hilton is doing on his land farther down Mandeville Canyon. "This way, you've got 100 acres of privacy for yourself," Roberts said.

A former concert promoter and manager of rock groups such as Sly and the Family Stone, Roberts paid $175,000 to have a professional production company make the slick video, which he's using to market the estate overseas. He believes that the buyer probably will be a foreigner or a corporation that wants to use the complex as an executive retreat. Marlene Stern, the listing agent at Fred Sands, said several potential buyers have surfaced recently, nearly all of them foreign investors.

Because the property features more high-tech features than a James Bond movie, it has become a familiar backdrop for film location managers who wish to portray rustic opulence. The house and adjoining buildings all have electric security shutters, and the main residence features several huge film screens, extensive audio equipment, jukeboxes, pinball machines and player pianos.

Despite all the time and attention he has devoted to the property, Roberts realizes that his vision of the high-end lifestyle might not be shared by others, and that a new owner might simply demolish the place and start over. He insists that he is unconcerned and that he had fun doing the project anyway.

"It took me 12 years, and I put in every single thing that I thought an estate should have," he said. "I just wanted a total complex so that it could be used for a corporation or a rock star. But I've always believed that when you have things of great value, they should always be for sale."

Thus, even though Roberts doesn't play tennis, the estate has a lighted tennis court. He doesn't drink, but it has two custom-made bars. He's not a gambler, but it has its own casino/game room. He doesn't entertain often, but he's held charity events with several hundred guests--hence the outdoor kitchen and the two outdoor snack bars.

But he does listen to music, as reflected by the elaborate sound systems throughout the estate. After turning Pasadena-based rock station KROQ-FM around by using a new format, Roberts sold the station in 1986 for a then-record $45 million to Infinity Broadcasting. He has continued to operate Mandeville Broadcasting from his Brentwood canyon complex and says he hopes to acquire another Los Angeles radio station in the near future.

And he doesn't ride anymore, but he couldn't resist the temptation to place the two plastic horses on the front pasture. He said it reflects the history of the property--Robert Taylor used it primarily as a riding retreat. But mostly he just did it for effect.

"I just saw them one day on Melrose Avenue and I couldn't resist," he said.

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