A bloated Bel Air, Calif., mansion that began life as a $500 million whisper listing in 2017 is now sinking under a $180 million mountain of debt. It officially hits the market for $295 million on Jan. 10 and will be on the auction block a month later — the latest example of a hyped Los Angeles megamansion that failed to perform.
The 105,000-square-foot residence, from developer Nile Niami, is known as “the One” and is bigger than most office buildings. The listing brokers, Rayni and Branden Williams of Beverly Hills Estates, and Aaron Kirman of Compass, say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“This house can never be done again,” said Williams.
Neighbors hope so! Horrified by a slew of megamansions — this being the biggest by far — that they changed the building code. (“I never called the house ‘the One.’ I called it ‘the Eleven,’ ” Bel Air resident Fred Rosen, former CEO of Ticketmaster who led the fight to curb hillside building, told the LA Times, referring to Chapter 11 bankruptcy.)
“It’s one of the ugliest homes I’ve ever seen,” a broker who toured the property said. “Only someone with terrible taste who wants to scream to the world that they’re rich [would buy it], and even then, I’m not so sure.”
The property sits on 3.8 acres and comes with “views from every room,” multiple kitchens, a 10,000-bottle wine cellar, gym, spa, salon, bowling alley, movie theater, nightclub, five pools and a moat, the listing brokers say.
“Somebody is going to get a great buy,” added Williams. “This is the Mona Lisa of modern mansions. It’s built on one of the premiere sites in the world.”
But while the house was once marketed as the nation’s largest, it’s actually not. That distinction goes to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, which is 178,926 square feet, followed by New York’s own Oheka Castle, which is 109,000 square feet.
Marketing materials also say that the house is “poised to make history as the most expensive home in the world ever to sell at auction.”
That’s not true either: Even if the spread sold at its original $500 million ask, a New Yorker realtor-cum-Italian princess is auctioning a Roman palace this month that is likely to achieve its $534 million ask.
Moreover, even if the One finds a buyer, they can’t live there — yet. There’s still no certificate of occupancy, even though construction has been going on for so long there is already cracked marble that needs repair by one of the pools, according to reports. (“They’re very close to getting the certificate of occupancy. There are a few negotiations left between the city and the Bel Air homeowners association. It’s about money at the end of the day,” said a source.)
Niami (inset), the megamansion’s developer (he owns the spec house with his ex-wife via an LLC) helped put the structure into Chapter 11 bankruptcy last fall. The move temporarily paused a planned foreclosure sale. Back then, Niami told reporters that he was working on a deal. It involved living in the house and hosting boxing matches and charity galas where performers like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston would come back from the dead to perform via hologram. But that never happened.
Now, Niami has released a video, where he lays out a convoluted plan to tokenize the house and sell it as a digital currency, dubbed “The One Coin.” Good luck with that!
“I get what he is thinking,” said one broker who toured the property. “Some homes have sold for up to $3,000 a square foot in Los Angeles or Malibu. Niami is probably thinking he can get that for 105,000 square feet. But it doesn’t compare.”
The One isn’t the only pumped-up West Coast palazzo to flop.
Spitting distance from the One, Gigi and Bella Hadid’s dad, Mohamed, started to build a mansion at 901 Strada Vecchia Road in Bel Air that a court has ordered him to tear down because of faulty construction.
In August, the famed Beverly Hills Hearst Estate, once listed for $195 million, sold for just $47 million after 14 years on the market. Developer Bruce Makowsky sold another megamansion at 924 Bel Air Road — which included a helipad, five bars, a bowling alley, a 40-seat movie theater, an 85-foot infinity pool and a massive candy wall, according to reports — that was asking $250 million in 2019 for only $94 million. A 120-acre undeveloped estate owned by late Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen — on top of a ridge in Beverly Crest — just sold for $65 million.
That’s less than half of its $150 million asking price.
Niami did not respond to interview requests, nor did his biggest lender, Don Hankey, of Hankey Capital, who made a fortune in car loans.
This is not the first time a Niami megamansion is in trouble either. He started off OK — selling a $40 million Holmby Hills home with an underwater tunnel to P. Diddy, followed by a $38 million home to billionaire private equity investor Brian Sheth, and a $25 million renovated Beverly Hills home to boxer Floyd Mayweather, according to the LA Times.
But as Niami’s homes and dreams got bigger, so did his losses. One home he marketed for $100 million, dubbed “Opus,” ended up valued at $38 million and sold for an unknown price.
“LA was a cheeseball place and then it got sophistication like New York, and cheeseball finishes no longer fly off the shelves,” a broker said. “[Niami’s] stuff looks like Las Vegas casinos back in the day.”