California mansion fire sale: the fall of a billion-dollar realtor

Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:32pm EDT
 
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By Tim Reid

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It has 17 bathrooms, a 17-car garage, marbled floors, gold leaf ceilings, a vineyard, horse stables, tennis courts and a lake - and occupies the largest parcel of residential real estate on southern California's exclusive Newport Coast.

This empty, never-sold, soon-to-be-auctioned mega-mansion is a gaudy symbol of the runaway extravagance that gripped the top end of the U.S. real estate market before the housing crash of 2008. Once valued at $87 million, it could be sold for a quarter of that price at an auction next week.

And One Pelican Hill Road North, once known as Villa del Lago, is also a story of housing bubble hubris, embodying the rise and fall of a man who once ruled luxury real estate in one of the world's most expensive housing markets.

The project began in 2003, when John McMonigle, a top luxury property broker in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, put together a partnership to acquire a 12.5 acre lot for $3.42 million, according to agents at HOM Sotheby's International Realty now in charge of marketing the property.

The seller was the Irvine Company, which over the course of a half-a-century has converted a family cattle ranch into one of the nation's great real property empires.

McMonigle, a handsome, well-tailored man who once claimed an astonishing $2 billion in property sales over a 5-year period, soon unveiled an artist's rendering of what was to be one of the world's premiere mansions.

This stretch of U.S. coastline, between Los Angeles and San Diego, is one of the world's prime real estate locations.

Hollywood celebrities and other super-rich stars have long owned property in nearby Newport Beach, including actors John Wayne and Shirley Temple. The golfer Tiger Woods owned a property there.   Continued...

 
A ground floor room of a for sale, $37 million dollar luxury home at One Pelican Hill Road North is seen in Newport Beach, California April 13, 2012. It has 17 bathrooms, a 17-car garage, marbled floors, gold leaf ceilings, a vineyard, horse stables, tennis courts and a lake - and occupies the largest parcel of residential real estate on southern California's exclusive Newport Coast. This empty, never-sold, soon-to-be-auctioned mega-mansion is a gaudy symbol of the runaway extravagance that gripped the top end of the U.S. real estate market before the housing crash of 2008. Once valued at $87 million, it could be sold for a quarter of that price at an auction next week. Picture taken April 13, 2012. REUTERS/Lori Shepler