Real-estate blogs have been abuzz since news broke last week that 22-year-old Petra Ecclestone (pictured) bought Candy Spelling's Bel-Air Manor, long the country's most expensive listing at an unflinching $150 million. Presumably her daddy, Formula One mogul Bernie Ecclestone, bankrolled the deal.
After three years of "Will Candy ever sell that over-the-top monstrosity?" speculation, I was actually looking forward to writing the end of this story.
But noooooo ... disbelievers like celebrity blogger Real Estalker continue to rock search engines with doubts about whether young Petra is the real buyer. It's Bernie's pal Mukesh Ambani (Forbes' ninth-richest man in the world), they say, or Lakshmi Mittal (a companion in the Top 10).
The naysayers over at Daily Beast simply can't fathom that a Paris Hilton-style celebutante like Petra Ecclestone would want to own a 123-room, somewhat stodgy, dated mansion built to suit another (older) woman's vision of perfection. Well since Petra neither wants to friend us on Facebook or answer my tweets, I can only surmise: She wants to own it because she can.
It's a 56,500-square-foot statement house, sort of like a trophy wife but with a cement foundation. It's what you buy when you want to own the world's spotlight. And need we remind anyone that houses can be remodeled, even torn down -- which is what, incidentally, Spelling did to the former Bing Crosby home that sat on the six-acre lot where the Manor now towers.
And by all accounts this one needs serious updating. Built more than 20 years ago, the place is showing its age, with 23 baths done in old-fashioned tile (the horror!) and miles of wall-to-wall carpet.
Spelling's mansion has been a lightning rod for attention -- most of it negative -- from Day One. Built in 1988 for $12 million, it's the largest house in Los Angeles County, and many argued that it was simply too big and out of proportion to the surrounding mansions, most of which are more reasonably sized at between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet.
Even the Spellings' daughter, actress Tori, spoofed the house in her VH1 series "So NoTORious," in a scene where she has to hunt down her fictional mother (played by Loni Anderson) in the humongous house, finally finding her in the gift-wrapping room. Make that one of the gift-wrapping rooms.
Where else can you find a house that possibly everyone in the world knows is over-the-top, a larger-than-life character with parking for 100 cars and an entire floor devoted to closets? Maybe that's why Petra wanted it.
And there are other reasons as well. The truth is, you can't drive in the world's fast lane if you don't own a place in Los Angeles. And soon she'll have one. The Manor has the right address, is located near the people who Petra wants to be near and is big enough to throw the kind of parties that we don't get invited to.
But still, the wagging tongues and paparazzo are having a field day. They say Petra reportedly liked another uber-mansion in town better -- the one known as Fleur de Lys and owned by divorcee Suzanne Saperstein. Did that deal fall apart, as per the TMZ rumor, over Saperstein's demand that Ecclestone pay her $700,000 moving bill? Saperstein may be many things, but a money fool she is not -- just ask ex-husband David Saperstein who some say still wears the plastic bag from the cleaners she took him to.
And there is speculation that Bernie is just fronting the purchase for one of his buddies. Might it really be Ambani (net worth of $27 billion who lives in a 27-story tower in Mumbai that cost $1 billion) or Mittal (net worth of $31 billion)? Pardon the obvious, but couldn't these two rich guys just have bought the Spelling manor themselves?
Let's face it, with air-tight confidentiality agreements signed by all parties, the details trickling out are largely speculation. When the deal closes in early July, if all goes according to plan, we'll finally have the answers. In the meantime, Candy Spelling is packing to move into her two-story penthouse apartment -- 16,000 brand-new square feet of design by Candy, and the world be damned. [Update: On July 1, Spelling is moving into The Carlyle Residences on Wilshire, while she awaits the completion of construction -- an estimated 18 months.]
And Petra? Well, she will likely be bringing in her own decorators to transform the Spelling home into something worthy of a Paparazzi Princess. Besides, it's not like she's going to live here full-time. She already owns a $90 million home in London's Chelsea.
Also see "Candy Spelling Headed for The Carlyle on Wilshire!"
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