Beverly Hills · Malibu


Beverly Hills · Malibu

Mansion Global: With $250 Million Ask, A Storied Bel-Air Estate Becomes America’s Priciest Home

Billionaire Gary Winnick’s 40,000-square-foot Casa Encantada, built during the Depression, is vying with a New York penthouse for the U.S. record

It is one of the most significant estates in Los Angeles. Built in the 1930s, the roughly 8.5-acre Casa Encantada in Bel-Air has twice set a record as the most expensive private home ever sold in the U.S., first in 1980 and then again in 2000.

Now, its current owners, billionaire financier Gary Winnick and his wife, artist and author Karen Winnick, are trying to set the record for a third time, listing the property for a potentially record-setting $250 million. The current U.S. record of roughly $240 million was set in 2019 when hedge fund titan Ken Griffin bought a penthouse on New York’s Billionaires’ Row.

Casa Encantada, which spans about 40,000 square feet, is one of a small collection of trophy L.A. estates dating back roughly a century and has a pedigree to match, with former owners including hotelier Conrad Hilton and Dole Food billionaire David Murdock. Listing agent Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency, who is listing the estate with Drew Fenton of Carolwood Estates, said he hopes the property’s rare and dramatic scale, coupled with that storied history, will have moneyed buyers reaching for their pocketbooks, even as the overall luxury market remains soft across the country amid inflation, rising interest rates and economic uncertainty.

Winnick, 75, said he sees the house like a Jackson Pollock or a Pablo Picasso, completely divorced from the rest of the market and standing in its own league. “To me, this is a work of art, and I have been its steward.”

The estate, which juts out over the Bel Air Country Club golf course with no neighbors on either side, was built in the 1930s for a wealthy widow named Hilda Boldt Weber, a one time New York City hospital nurse who married multimillionaire Cincinnati glass manufacturer Charles Boldt, according to the book “The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills” by the late realtor and historian Jeff Hyland. Boldt fell in love with the nurse while recovering from a heart attack after the death of his wife, but when his new wife was shunned by high society in Cincinnati because of her modest roots, the pair relocated to California, according to the book. When Boldt died in 1929, he left Weber his extensive fortune.

Hilda Boldt Weber bought the Bel-Air land for $100,000 in 1934, an “astonishing sum” amid the Depression, the book said. “She wanted to make a major statement and assume what she considered to be her rightful place in Los Angeles society,” Hyland wrote. “That required a magnificent new estate.”

The home was designed by architect James E. Dolena in a Moderne-influenced Georgian style.

It was completed in 1938 and Weber celebrated by hosting a cocktail party, followed by dinner and dancing.

“Guests had never seen anything quite like Casa Encantada,” Hyland wrote. A gate on Bellagio Road opened onto a gently rising, curved driveway, past impressive lawns on either side, all the way to a motor court with a fountain. The entrance to the home sat beneath a neoclassical portico. There were 40 rooms, including three kitchens, or 60 if you included the servants’ quarters and the walk-in silver, fur and wine vaults in the basement. The interior finishes also awed visitors. There were rooms paneled in rare woods like English sycamore and black walnut and furnished with 18th Century French paintings, antique clocks and centuries-old Chinese porcelains. A silver tea service had been made for the czar of Russia in the 1800s.

Weber put the property on the market in 1948, when she began facing financial difficulties. It eventually sold two years later to the hotel magnate Conrad Hilton for $225,000. Hilton lived there until his death in 1979 and made practically no changes, preferring to keep it as “an extraordinary time capsule of high-style 1940s taste,” Hyland wrote.

Murdock paid $12.4 million for the house in 1980 after Hilton’s death. Then in 2000, Winnick bought if for $94 million. Both the Murdock and Winnick purchases set records as the most expensive homes ever sold in the country at the time, according to Hyland’s book. (Weber, for her part, fell into financial ruin, thanks in part to a gambling problem. In 1951, she died by suicide at her home in Santa Barbara.)

Winnick said he first visited the property in 1988 for a fundraiser luncheon hosted by Murdock for President George H.W. Bush. Driving through the gates and onto the property, he was taken aback that an estate of such scale existed in L.A. It reminded him, he said, of the grand estates on the Gold Coast of New York’s Long Island, where he grew up. With such a big crowd at the fundraiser, he didn’t get a proper look at the interior details “I never thought that 10 years later, I would buy it,” he said.

It was only when Murdock invited him back about a decade later, with the implicit intention of selling it to him, that he really got a good look. The property is so large that he was physically tired after the full tour, including the garden, he said.  

Winnick told Murdock that, if he really wanted to sell, he needed to make up his mind, since Winnick and his wife were about to start construction on a new house nearby.

For the Winnicks, the move to Casa Encantada represented a dramatic change in lifestyle: They had spent 20 years living in a roughly 4,500-square-foot home in Brentwood, near their kids’ school. Though they could afford a lot more, they preferred to remain there until their sons graduated, Winnick said.

Winnick is a  financier and philanthropist. He was the founder and chairman of Global Crossing, which built a fiber optic cable network across the world. Previously, he worked on Wall Street, specializing in high yield and convertible bonds.

At the time of the purchase, Winnick said he didn’t know the extent of the restoration they would end up doing. “I came to appreciate the craftsmanship and workmanship in the house,” he said.

“This isn’t the kind of house where you can just call up a regular decorator and say, ‘Come decorate my house. It is a totally different mind-set,” he said.

The restoration and design work, headed by interior designer Peter Marino, took about 2.5 years, with roughly 250 workers on site each day, Winnick said. When the couple wanted to redo the intricate plasterwork, there were only three people in the Western states who were qualified and they had just finished doing the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Winnick said. They worked at the house for a year and a half. 

The couple also tapped eight Parisian artisans to redo the walls of the dining room, the center of the family’s frequent gatherings, in a Japanese-inspired lacquer finish. It took 14 coats of paint and was polished by hand over many months, Winnick said.

After Murdock bought the house from the Hilton estate, he sold all the original furniture by the British-born furniture designer T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings.  Winnick asked Marino to try to track some of it down and they found and bought back about a dozen pieces.

The Winnicks also installed all new systems, like heating and cooling, plumbing and electrical. In all, the restoration cost in the tens of millions of dollars, he said.

Winnick has filled the house with pieces of his extensive art collection, which has works by classical French impressionists as well as modern artists like Cy Twombly and Edward Hopper. In the living room, his friend the late Stephen Sondheim once played a rare piano by Blüthner that dates back to pre-World War II, Winnick said. A portrait of George Washington in the wood-paneled study was commissioned by Benjamin Franklin.

Winnick has been considering the sale of Casa Encantada for years. He tapped an agent to market it for $225 million in 2019, but never formally listed it, he said. He said they got some early interest and showed the property to several big names, but he ultimately didn’t allow people back for a second look, saying he wasn’t really ready to sell at the time. But now he and his wife are finally ready to downsize. Casa Encantada requires a team of staffers, he said, particularly to care for the grounds, which include a number of silk trees. The trees draw parakeets at certain times of the year, he said, while a tunnel runs under the property connecting two holes of the golf course.

Listing agent Rappaport said there are few estates with which Casa Encantada could be compared. He pointed to Chartwell, the L.A. estate long owned by billionaire Univision Chairman Jerry Perenchio, which sold for $150 million in 2019 to Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman of News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal. Rappaport also pointed to the Warner estate, a Bel-Air mansion purchased by Jeff Bezos from David Geffen for $165 million in 2020.

“These kinds of estates come up only once every few decades and once they’re gone, they’re gone,” he said. “These are people who don’t have to sell and who aren’t necessarily enticed by a good offer.”

At $250 million, Casa Encantada is the most expensive listing in the L.A. area and is tied with a New York property as the most expensive in the U.S. The penthouse at Central Park Tower, a 1,550-foot-tall mega-tower on Billionaires’ Row, came on the market for $250 million in September.

The L.A. luxury real-estate market has been sluggish in recent months, as sellers come to grips with a new transfer tax on the sale of high-priced homes. However, big-ticket deals haven’t stopped altogether. Last month, entertainers Beyoncé and Jay-Z paid about $200 million for a Malibu estate. “The ultra high end is its own world,” Rappaport said.

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