Home Owner

A Look at the Second-Most Expensive Property Sold in America

In what is considered to be the second largest residential sale in American history, the property of Univision chair Jerrold Perenchio’s mansion, including an 11 acre estate, has finally been sold.

Two years since Perenchio placed “Chartwell” on the real estate market it has been picked up for a cool $150 million, which may sound a lot but is in actual fact only a third of its original asking price – an overly optimistic $350 million.

Known to some as the “The Beverly Hillbillies” mansion, the exact figure of the sale has not been announced, however the property was bought by the Australian-British-American businessman son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, whose lower offer has been formally accepted.

The billionaire co-chair of News Corp will have plenty of space to play with. As well as the 11 acres and the mansion, there are a further five properties on the estate, bought over time by Perenchio.

The main mansion is a 25,000-square-foot 1930s French neoclassical style chateau that sits nicely in eleven acres of land. Also included is another property just behind which was purchased from former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.

Picking up its nickname due to it being used in the credits of “The Beverly Hillbillies” sitcom – although filming was never conducted there – the estate has more recently been thought of as one of LA’s greatest properties.

The property was originally designed by architect Sumner Spaulding and although the estate is clad in limestone, there are many Gatsby-esque attractions including formal rooms, a vaulted foyer and the stunning ballroom.

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There is also a custom wine vault enabling a wine collector to collate around 12,000 bottles.

Although the 26 room mansion was commissioned by civil engineer and contractor Lynn Atkinson as a gift to his wife – who was an established socialite at the time – it is believed the couple never actually resided in the property.

The property unfortunately became something of a dud decision as the “house with the golden door knobs” gave Atkinson an extremely large tax bill.

In an attempt to reduce this bill Atkinson entered a long disagreement with the county Board of Equalization as he claimed the value of the property had been vastly over assessed and eventually he had it devalued from $165,000 to $70,000 in 1943.

Atkinson was reported at the time as saying that “I can’t live in the property with the taxes as high as they are, and no one else can.”

The issues with the tax bill does not seem to have changed much with the Murdochs now possessing a property which has one of the largest yearly tax bills in the entire Los Angeles area — a reported $1.3 million.

Perenchio passed away at the age of 86 in 2017 and had bought the property for a mere $14 million in 1986. In the 31 years he owned the estate he hired architect Pierre Barbe and designer Henri Samuel to restore the property, creating a cellar to house his private wine collection – one of the biggest in California – and a Versailles-like palace for his established art collection.

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He then went on to snap up the Reagans’ home for $15 million in 2016 after Nancy had also passed.

Hidden behind walls and hedges the property is not visible from the street so passers-by cannot view the tennis court, the pool house beside the 75 foot swimming pool, the manicured lawns, or even the stunning water fountain features.

There are also several items that have been created beneath the estate. As well as the wine cellar there is a subterranean garage, allowing up to 40 vehicles space to park. There is also a (not so) secret tunnel that runs from the basement along to the swimming pool.

Perenchio’s estate included many more properties and since his death many have been sold, including a property opposite Chartwell that was utilized as Perenchio’s own vineyard that sold last month for $12 million. He has also had properties in Malibu sold off.

The title of the most expensive property ever sold in America still sits with billionaire Ken Griffin who splashed out a staggering $238 million on a penthouse in New York City’s 220 Central Park South.

Covering an enormous 23,000 square foot and taking over floors 50 – 53 at the city’s skyscraper, designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the property was just one that Griffin picked up over a two year period. He has also bought a $122 million mansion in London, England, which is close to Buckingham Palace, making it one of the most expensive properties ever sold in the capital.

He also owns $58.75 million worth of a condominium in Chicago, a $60 million beach house in Malibu and around $250 million on land in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is planning on building himself a mansion.

White House

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney Confirms Quid Pro Quo

Ever since explosive allegations of misconduct which the House of Representatives have deemed worthy of opening an impeachment investigation were released to the press, the White House’s defense has been that the President’s request for Ukraine to open up an investigation into Joe Biden’s son was not improper because there was no quid pro quo, or an exchange of something of value. However, text messages released by Congress in addition to a reconstructed transcript released by the White House itself strongly suggest the presence of a quid pro quo in the form of withholding military aid in exchange for an investigation intended to damage the President’s chief political rival. 

The White House has responded to the impeachment investigation by illegally refusing to cooperate with Congress, on the grounds that they view the investigation as illegitimate, while simultaneously asserting that there was no wrongdoing. Yesterday, however, the White House’s defense became even more tenuous, as White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney all but admitted the presence of a quid pro quo relationship between the President and Ukraine.

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Mulvaney, who confirmed that aid was withheld from Ukraine in exchange for political favors at a White House press conference which was televised live, stunned reporters with the admission. Various members of the press even gave Mulvaney an opportunity at the time to walk back these comments, asking multiple times for clarification, leading Mulvaney to double down on the shocking admission of guilt. He then told reporters to “get over it,” adding that “there’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” 

Though Mulvaney asserted at the time that there was nothing improper about this exchange, the White House legal counsel wasted no time in distancing themselves from Mulvaney, saying “the president’s legal counsel was not involved in acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s press briefing.” Later that day, Mulvaney attempted to reverse his claim, accusing the press of “misconstruing” his comments and saying “let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo,” directly contradicting his statement earlier that day.

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This latest development is yet another blow to a White House reeling from the consequences of the ongoing impeachment investigation. At the same time as Mulvaney’s press conference, Gordan Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, testified behind closed doors that he had agreed to allow Trump to run Ukraine policy through his personal lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, instead of through ordinary diplomatic channels. 

Additionally, Sondland confirmed that he had told another diplomat that there “was no quid pro quo” at the direction of the President, which Democrats argue indicates the presence of a consciousness of guilt as members of the Trump administration attempted to cover their tracks. Also, energy secretary Rick Perry, who is implicated in the wide-reaching political scandal, announced his resignation, becoming the latest in a series of departures in a White House with a historically high rate of turnover.

White House

Trump Administration Refuses to Participate in Impeachment Inquiry

On Tuesday, the White House announced that it would not cooperate whatsoever with an impeachment inquiry started by House of Representatives Democrats who are looking into whether the President is seeking to undermine the integrity of the 2020 election by soliciting campaign assistance from foreign powers. Although the Constitution grants the House of Representatives the power to bring forth articles of impeachment, and to issue subpoenas and compel witnesses to testify in order to do so, the Trump Administration has introduced the novel argument that Congress’s impeachment inquiry is illegitimate, and therefore the White House has no obligation to produce documents or allow witnesses to testify. 

Following along those lines, the White House blocked a key witness, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, from being deposed, though Sondland expressed a clear interest in speaking with members of Congress. Representative Adam Schiff, one of the House committee chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry, has previously stated that any action taken by the White House to delay its inquiry would be interpreted as obstruction of justice, the basis of which one of the articles of impeachment against Nixon was formed.

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The White House made this argument in the form of a scathing letter addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in which White House counsel Pat Cipollone asserted the impeachment effort is nothing more than a partisan attack on the executive branch of government, motivated by Democrats wishing to undo the results of the 2016 election. The letter also asserts that the inquiry is unconstitutional and illegal, and represents a violation of civil liberties and the principle of separation of powers. The letter is a clear attempt by the administration to slow down the impeachment inquiry process, in the hopes that it becomes a long, drawn-out affair that ultimately hurts the Democratic Party’s favorability. 

Democrats have responded by asserting that the letter’s criticisms of the inquiry are baseless and won’t hold up in court, and have indicated that they plan to follow through on their threat to include obstruction of justice charges among their articles of impeachment and that the administration’s refusal to cooperate would not slow down the pace of the inquiry, particularly considering the fact that damning evidence suggesting the President’s request of a foreign nation to interfere in the election is already publicly available.

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The Trump campaign is already trying to take advantage of the impeachment inquiry in their re-election efforts by asserting in campaign advertisements that Trump is a victim of a partisan attack by Democrats intending to undermine his legitimacy as President. The longer the impeachment inquiry plays out, the more the campaign will be able to send this message, making the strategy of delaying the investigation as much as possible more fruitful. The Trump campaign has already raised a tremendous amount of money, totalling more than $300 million this year alone, meaning that the campaign will be able to send a message of victimhood broadly using social media and other outlets for as long as necessary.

The White House’s strategy is risky, especially considering the fragile legal ground its argument stands on. A clear majority of the US population supports the impeachment inquiry, even in these early stages of the investigation, with one poll indicating that 58% of Americans support impeaching Trump. The administration’s outright refusal to participate in the inquiry is likely to drive this number even higher, as an unwillingness to testify and produce evidence suggests the presence of a consciousness of guilt, and many Americans recognize obstruction of justice as an impeachable offense. Several commentators have characterized the administration’s response as a constitutional crisis, defined as a conflict between the branches of government that the Constitution has no mechanism to resolve, which is a breakdown of the fundamental structure of government. We are certainly in uncharted waters, as this is only the fourth impeachment inquiry in American history, and the first one in which both opposing sides are totally unwilling to cede any ground in the conflict.