A giant parcel of land at the top of Beverly Hills aims to become the most expensive real estate ever sold, with a price tag of $1 billion — with a "B."
The property, called The Mountain, is 157 acres and sits on the highest point in the 90210 ZIP code. One owner could buy the property and build a 1.5-million-square-foot compound — with three structures of up to 500,000 square feet.
Its southern views range from downtown LA to Orange County, Catalina Island and Santa Monica. It's only five minutes from the Beverly Hills Hotel, but the nearest neighbor is over a half-mile away, offering convenience and privacy.
The property also comes with a private road and millions of dollars in land improvements, including a 16-foot-tall stone security gate, landscape lighting and more than 500 trees.
"This is the only opportunity to own your own mountain that looks down at all of Los Angeles," said Aaron Kirman, the broker representing the property. "Our likely buyer is an individual who wants to build his or her own compound."
Land prices in Beverly Hills and LA's "Golden Triangle" have skyrocketed in recent years, as spec builders and homebuyers battle for the best perches above Los Angeles to build their dream homes. Evan Metropoulos, whose family owns Twinkies, paid $65 million for the 2-acre former Danny Thomas estate in Beverly Hills, which will become the site of a new home.
Yet as luxury housing slows and foreign buyers fade, it remains to be seen whether anyone will pay near $1 billion for a piece of land.
The Mountain has been shopped around and has a troubled past. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the property was purchased by the sister of the shah of Iran in the 1970s, and then sold to Merv Griffin. Herbalife founder Mark Hughes then stepped in and bought it for $8.7 million in 1997, making it the most expensive property sold in America at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Hughes died suddenly in 2000, leaving it to a trust. The trust sold it to a company called Tower Park Properties, which included among its investors a mystery Middle Eastern investor and a convicted felon, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In 2015, Tower Park Properties began quietly marketing the property for $1 billion, with its own sales website. Later in 2015, the company denied the property had never been listed.
A massive court battle between the trust and Tower Park led to the property being transferred in 2015 to a company called Secured Capital Partners, which is currently selling the property. The marketing materials say Victorino Noval, who was general manager of Secured Capital Partners and had been part of Tower Park Properties, "has no responsibilities with respect to this property."
The marketing materials say his son, Franco Noval, is the "manager of the LLC that owns the property."
Victorino Noval pleaded guilty to tax evasion and mail fraud in 1997 and went to federal prison for three years. A lawsuit last year accused him of fraud, but was dismissed in May.
Ronald Richards, a lawyer for Secured Capital Partners, said in an email to CNBC that the most recent fraud lawsuit was "meritless" and had no relationship to The Mountain property.