Two All-Star Games and two World Series were decided in the time it took former pro baseball player Lenny Dykstra to lose his trophy home in Thousand Oaks to foreclosure.
But it was game over for the onetime star center fielder Wednesday when a bid of $760,712 and change took the Sherwood Country Club estate on the steps of the Ventura County Courthouse. In addition to the amount of the winning bid, buyer Index Investors is on the hook for about $12 million owed to first lender JPMorgan Chase & Co. plus missed payments and taxes.
Dykstra had purchased the 6 1/2-acre compound in 2007 at the peak of the housing bubble from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky for $18.5 million, including some furnishings.
Jeff Smith of Index Investors, a development and private equity firm, dreamed of taking possession of the property in the summer of 2009.
Dykstra, who played for the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies during his pro career, ran into problems when he tried his hand at being a financial guru and business owner. Smith lent the financially troubled Dykstra about $370,000 in late 2008 for repairs to his Gulfstream II jet. A month later Smith lent "Nails," as the ballplayer is nicknamed, an additional $400,000, public records show.
When Dykstra defaulted on his mortgage payments, Index Investors sought to gain control of the 12,700-square-foot mansion at a foreclosure sale and recoup its money.
"I'm ready to be the proud owner of the property on July 9," Smith told The Times a year and a half ago in an e-mail referencing the gated mansion.
"It's an unbelievably beautiful estate," Smith said. "I'm so excited I haven't been able to sleep."
There would be many more sleepless nights ahead on Smith's journey to pick up the keys, however.
Days later, Dykstra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, derailing the scheduled auction. His bankruptcy filing listed assets of $24.6 million and debts of $37.1 million.
Chapter 11 evolved into Chapter 7. A trustee was appointed. Fixtures, flooring and appliances were removed from the main house as Dykstra filed a water damage claim with his insurer.
The trustee put the Richard Landry-designed house back on the market but neglected to turn on the water, and the once-manicured lawns turned brown.
The six-bedroom, eight-bathroom manse, considered by some the crown jewel of the Sherwood development, fell into disrepair. Rodents took up residence.
The property, which Dykstra had listed for sale at $25 million in 2008, was most recently priced at about $10 million.
"I think I can get $14.5 million for it," Smith said.
On the market nearby is a newly built compound owned by tennis great Pete Sampras. The 13,000-square-foot contemporary, which sits on 20 acres with a tennis court and a swimming pool, was listed in March at $25 million.
Crews are already at work at the former Dykstra home, attending to the landscaping, which is overgrown in places. The compound has about $1.5 million worth of hardscaping and landscaping, Smith estimated, including a $250,000 specimen oak.
Smith plans to spend about $150,000 to restore the house and grounds. The work will include repairing the front gate, pool, fountain and some floors and putting in new appliances.
Other features remain intact. "The onyx, the millwork in the ceiling — none of that was destroyed," Smith said.
He'll also make a few aesthetic changes. "The countertops were mustard yellow in the kitchen," he said.
Smith, who spent months in court and $175,000 in attorney's fees, likened the protracted experience of buying the estate to being stuck on the atoll in the sitcom "Gilligan's Island."
"Each week you'd show up and the characters were the same but the plot was different," he said. "The final episode was Wednesday. I'm still in a state of disbelief that I got the property."