Is Carbon Beach set to be renamed “Ellison Alley?” With Oracle Founder and CEO Larry Ellison’s latest purchase of mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s home on the tony side of Malibu, he has upped his holdings on Carbon Beach frontage to 10 separate properties, representing about 10 percent of available home sites there. And that’s only some of his Malibu property holdings.
So why is Ellison on such a buying spree? Whereas some may say it is simply the indulgence of a who can afford it hyped-up trophy home hunter, sources around Malibu say it is more that Ellison, as a shrewd investor, knows a good thing when he sees it and pays to protect his assets.
Kurt Rappaport, co-founder of Westside Estate Agency, a realty agency known for its discretion, multimillion-dollar listings and catering to Hollywood royalty, has represented Ellison in past deals and says that Ellison simply loves Malibu.
“When you look at everything else going on in the world, Larry thinks that prime coastal properties like those in Malibu are a hidden gem,” Rappaport said. “He is extremely aware of the long-term value of a city that works to maintain that old-fashioned, small town charm Malibu has, but one which can welcome international visitors with world class hotel and restaurant facilities.
“If you look at his properties, they are not the ‘let’s build as big as we can’ kind of thing,” Rappaport continued. “Larry is more about a very tasteful aesthetic and he wants his Carbon Beach properties to retain that original Malibu feel.”
Ellison’s modus operandi has frequently centered around buying several large, contiguous tracts of beachfront or lakefront properties (Lake Tahoe is another favorite target for Ellison’s acquisition-minded moods), then building to suit his needs.
One real estate agent familiar with Malibu properties said he has long been “amused and curious” about Ellison’s Malibu purchases.
“Ellison might be buying a lot of these properties for fun, but it sure isn’t buying stupidly,” the agent, who declined to allow his name to be used (Ellison is notoriously press-aversive), said. “Clearly, he believes that Malibu real estate can only be a good investment in the long run. Even when you consider regulations by agencies like the California Coastal Commission, it doesn’t weaken the value. The super wealthy just wouldn’t tolerate that.”
The agent estimated Ellison’s properties on Carbon Beach alone to be valued at $200 million to $250 million.
Just how many Malibu properties Ellison owns is not easy to determine. Serra Retreat is one location and the City Planning Department said that Ellison has purchased several properties on Cross Creek Road.
Joyce Parker-Bozylinski, the City of Malibu’s planning director, said that county assessor files generally only list through property address, not by property owner.
“Even in Geographical Information Systems, people don’t always use their real name,” Parker-Bozylinski said. “The only way we know is when people come in seeking building permits. But even then, they can use a proxy. For his Serra property, Ellison used an entity called Malibu Realty LLC to expedite the process. But we all knew who it really was. Usually, we find out about big property purchases the same way you guys do.”
Malibu officials who have done business with Ellison agree that the software industrialist would only invest in properties or ideas he believes are sure-fire, long-term winners. They also agree that Ellison is one to play his cards close to his chest, so that motivation or philosophy is not always discernible.
Former mayor Jefferson Wagner has worked with Ellison in the past (in capacities that Wagner said were “too difficult” to explain) and praised his restrained, “tasteful” approach to property enhancement.
“Larry is very into honor and tradition, like in Asian culture,” Wagner said. “Those two new restaurants (Nobu, which replaced the Windsail restaurant, and the old PierView location) out on PCH? The public has no idea how much he spent on remodeling those properties and it’s money that he’ll never recover. He cast the downspouts on those buildings from bronze! His image is important and he just wants the very best for anything he does.”
To Wagner, Ellison represents the kind of nation-shaping that was once the purview of industrialists like the Rockefellers or the Vanderbilts; only Ellison’s expansive vision rides Internet highways rather than the rails. He compared Ellison to another modern day financial titan—Ted Turner.
“Larry is not really one of those ‘bad boy billionaires,’ though he’ll let you know when he’s won something,” Wagner said. “But as much as he likes to have fun, he sees his properties as very secure investment value. They’re not making any more space available on the beach, so he’s not going anywhere, any time soon.”
Ellison also owns plenty of commercial property in Malibu. Nobu and the as-yet-renamed PierView restaurant are in his pocket, along with the boutique Malibu Beach Inn and the Malibu Racquet Club. Since purchasing the Racquet Club about five years ago, General Manager Trey Waltke says that considerable renovations have been made.
“He has great aesthetic taste and the architecture he has developed here is just stunning,” Waltke said.
Waltke also said that Ellison, a tennis enthusiast, doesn’t come to the club to play, since he can play on his own clay court at home, where Waltke regularly joins him for a round (“He has a great forehand,” Waltke said).
But Ellison stops by when the club is hosting a charity event, as with a recent Bryan Brothers Foundation tournament that serves underprivileged children.
“Larry’s a very competitive guy,” Waltke said. “But he also has really great taste.”