Let's Talk Larry Ellison: Trees and Other Things

Let's face it, children, rich people are different from other people. We're not talking about the run of the mill rich people who make half a million or two million a year, we're talkin' the super-papered and über-pampered peeps for whom money really does grow on trees.

Take for instance billionaire tech tycoon Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of software supernova Oracle. The bearded and buff 66-year old claims a reported net worth near forty billion dollars. Say it slowly and let that sink in, butter cups. Forty. Billion. Dollars. Sorta makes a person need a nerve pill just to contemplate that sort of money, don't it?

In 1988 Bay Area-based Mister Ellison, paid $3,900,000 for a 10,742 square foot contemporary mansion on Billionaire's Row, a particularly posh stretch of street of the supuh-swank Pacific Heights 'hood in San Francisco, CA.
The four-story residence sits high on a quintessentially steep San Francisco hill where a quartet of very old trees that include an 80-year old acacia have grown tall enough to obstruct Mister Ellioson's otherwise unobstructed panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay. (See above for actual photo of the obstructed view from Mister Ellison's third floor living room.) The tall stand of view-wrecking trees are not, alas, in Mister Ellison's backyard but rather root into the yard of his down-hill neighbors, the von Bothmers. Mister Ellison and the von Bothmers have long been in a protracted legal tangle over Mister Ellison's strong desire to top the von Bothmer's trees in a manner that preserves his panoramic view. For truly a fascinating blow by blow, the children can peruse the Wall Street Journal's recent account of the tree top dramatics that ensued between Mister Ellison and his tree-loving neighbors.
Reports surfaced that after a decade of dispute and legal wrangling Mister Ellison has become so frustrated that he planned to spend a staggering $40,000,000 to purchase the giant mansion immediately next door (rear exterior shown above at left), a spectacular and storied four-floor residence with sober exterior, magnificently ornate interiors and bays views blessedly unimpeded by any of those naughtly ol' trees. Mister Elliman later released a statement claiming he is not now nor has he any plans to purchase the mansion next door to his for $40,000,000 or any other amount of money.

All this brouhaha comes hot on the heels of another stupefyingly expensive real estate acquisition by Mister Ellison. In mid-March 2011 the property mad tycoon shelled out a gut-wrenching $42,900,000 to acquire a 249-acre high-maintenance estate in Rancho Mirage, CA with a private 18-hole golf course and an 18,000+ square foot main house plus four guest casitas and four two-bedroom guest houses of nearly 2,000 square feet apiece. Didn't we tell you that rich people are different from regular people? Presumably this is a lavish spread that Mister Ellison will use, at best, a few weeks of the year when he's in town for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA and maybe a few more weeks a year when he wants to golf without the interruption of other golfers.

Anyhoodles poodles, the mansion Mister Ellison says he is definitely not buying for forty million clammers or any other amount is a fascinating piece of San Francisco history, built in 1916 and owned since 1979 by the high-society matriarch, art patroness and haute couture dynamo Dodie Rosekrans and her second husband John, an heir to the the Sprekels family sugar fortune. Mister Rosekrans–who went on to earn his own fortune manufacturing and selling Frisbees, boogie boards and hacky sacks–met his maker in November 2001 and the iconoclastic Missus Rosekrans carried on until November 2010 with the dignity of a woman of her station and a daring, horrifically expensive and sometimes wacky sense of personal style.

The glittering and glamorous Missus Rosekrans and her wealthy Mister had the Willis Polk-designed mansion done over by San Francisco's legendary decorator Michael Taylor. Many years later Missus Rosekrans claimed never to have altered a damn thing that Mister Taylor had done. And why would she? What ever would be wrong with a decorative vignette comprised of a snug arched corridor lined with meticulous mill work that bursts into a capacious living room with towering plaster pilasters that line the walls, herringbone-patterned wood floors, gilded 18th-century arm chairs upholstered in chartreuse silk-velvet and a curving sofa with fringed skirt and a leopard skin–with the head–tossed across the back? Oh, and let's not forget the Picasso that lords over the thrilling tableau. Okay, the actual leopard skin makes us feel squeamish and icky but Michael Taylor was a genius, hunties, and Missus Rosekrans's San Francisco mansion explains why he owns a high place in the pantheon of legendary decorators.
He may not be the buyer of the Rosekrans mansion (at right above) that's slammed up hard to his current crib (at left above) but, hunnies, it really wouldn't be such a surprise if had bought or did in the future buy the palatial pile; Mister Ellison has previously purchased ludicrously expensive adjacent properties in high-priced California communities. Mister Ellison owns well over $100,000,000 in Malibu real estate including a handful of homes on Carbon Beach, also known as Billionaire's Beach due to the number of high profile billionaires (Jeffrey Katzenberg, Haim Saban, David Geffens et al) who own homes along that particular stretch of sand. Three of the homes five homes Mister Ellison currently owns on Carbon Beach sit right in a row and records show they were purchased between June 2008 and August 2003 at a toe-curling total cost of $33,250,000. He also owns another small house down the beach a bit that actress Jennifer Aniston leased for some time after her bust up from Brad Pitt in the early naughts.

Anyone who follows the high-end of the real estate market in Lala Land knows that Mister Ellison's real estate apple didn't fall very far from the tree. Earlier in 2011 Mister Ellison's budding film producer daughter Megan completed the pricey purchase of a third contiguous property high above the Sunset Strip. According to property records, previous reports and Your Mama's bejeweled abacus, we figure that young Miss Ellison–presumably with money received from her property obsessed father–has spent an astonishing $32,850,000 on her three contiguous clean-lined contemporary cribs that combined have three swimming pools, 10 bedrooms and 14 full and 1 half bathrooms.

Naturally, we have no idea what Miss Ellison plans to do with the property. Given the money-is-no-object real estate attitude of the Ellison it would not surprise Your Mama in the least if Miss Ellison planned to knock one or more of her three homes down to make way for an estate designed and optimized for her precise life and life style. Stranger things have happened.

Just look what billionaire hedge hog David Tepper has done out in Southampton, NY. Last year he spent $43,500,000 to acquire the 6.45 acre ocean front estate of the ex-wife of former U.S. Senator and governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine. This year, peeved he was unable to see the ocean from the first floor of the existing house, Mister "I want what I want at any cost" Tepper demolished the existing residence and the estate's various out buildings to make way for a much more substantial mansion of around 15,000 square feet, nearly three times the size of ex-Missus Corzine's former and now no longer existing beach house.

In addition to the massive main house, Mister Tepper's new beach front getaway, according to plans filed with the town of Sagaponack Village Building Department will also include a 1,000-ish square foot 3-car garage with basement, a 550-square foot pool house and a 270-square foot tennis pavilion.

Sagaponack, once the quiet domain of potato farmers, artists and beach-going others who willfully opted out of the staid old money scene in Southampton and the glittery new money extravaganza of East Hampton, has become inundated over the last 10 or 15 years with prodigious amounts of Wall Street money that has swept in like a tidal wave and transformed the once bucolic and relaxed farming community into a crush of newly erected mega-mansions.

The current issue of Vanity Fair includes an article about the mesmerizing real estate tale of a Houston businessman engaged in a decade-long dispute with an old Sagaponack farming family that illustrates how money–really big money–has infiltrated, re-shaped and re-defined–and some might argue infected and destroyed–the once sleepy and scenic seaside enclave.

Back on the west coast showbiz mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg paid an astounding $35,000,000 in early 2010 for an 8,704 square foot mid-century modern mansion on a prominent 6.34 acre hilltop in Beverly Hills. He immediately razed the existing house to make way for something bigger and better rumored to be designed by the folks at Gwathmey Siegel, the same firm responsible for his impressive post-modern ocean front compound on Malibu's Carbon Beach.

As extraordinary as these things may seem to ordinary folks and mere financial mortals, billionaires (and near billionaires) who spend vast sums of money to acquire contiguous high-priced properties and/or purchase shockingly expensive but perceptually sub-par residences they replace with newer, bigger and shinier ones, appear to be the new normal for the super rich.

Do not, without aid of a cocktail and a mood altering substance, even begin to attempt to make sense of the capricious real estate ways of the famous and/or the filthy rich. Your Mama–under the influence of an illegal substance and with a tall gin & tonic in hand–wonders then, if some money-is-no-object buyer will snatch up Jennifer Aniston's $42,000,000 house in Beverly Hills or Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi's sixty million dollar compound in the Hills of Beverly only to tear everything down and start again. Anyone care to weigh in on that bone chilling possibility?

NOTE: This post revised late same day in light of crucial and more current information we failed to uncover during in our earlier (and inadequate) research.

photo(top): Google
photo (middle): Ellison v. Von Bothmer case file from the Wall Street Journal
photo (bottom) Google