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Celeb Homes

Playboy Mansion's Neighbor to Buy the Property

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: The All-New 2017 Fiat 124 Spider at Playboy's 2016 Playmate of the Year Announcement at the Playboy Mansion on May 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Playboy) (2016 Getty Images)

The Playboy mansion, a stately 1927 home famous for exotic parties where movie stars, athletes and billionaires frolicked with scantily clad women, is to be sold to the most familiar of buyers: the neighbor.

Daren Metropoulos, a principal at private-equity firm Metropoulos & Co. who bought the adjacent property in 2009, is in contract to purchase the property.

He said in a statement he is less interested in the fame the mansion earned over the last four decades as a playground for Playboy bunnies and more interested in preserving its architectural pedigree. The home's architect is Arthur Rolland Kelly, who designed hundreds of homes in the Los Angeles area.

"The heritage of this property transcends its celebrity, and to have the opportunity to serve as its steward would be a true privilege," Mr. Metropoulos said. He declined to disclose the purchase price.

The home was listed for $200 million by broker Mauricio Umansky of The Agency, as well as Gary Gold and Drew Fenton of Hilton & Hyland.

Jeffrey Hyland, the president of Hilton & Hyland, said the price was "nine digits" and would set a record for the highest-priced residential sale in Los Angeles. He said there were multiple offers for the property.

The mansion, purchased by Playboy Enterprises in 1971 for $1.05 million, is the longtime home of Playboy Founder Hugh Hefner.

The sale comes with one unusual condition: Mr. Hefner, 90 years old, will be able to remain in the home as long as he lives. After Mr. Hefner's tenancy ends, Mr. Metropoulos intends to connect the two estates into a combined 7.3-acre compound, a representative for him said.

Mr. Metropoulos bought the house next door, which had been used by Mr. Hefner's former wife to raise their two children, from Mr. Hefner in 2009 for $18 million.

The roughly 20,000-square-foot Playboy mansion has 29 rooms, including 12 bedrooms, on 5 acres, according to the sales listing. It is one of the few private residences in Los Angeles with a zoo license, the listing says. Mr. Heffner added a heated swimming pool and a grotto in the 1970s.

The mansion is famous for glitzy parties. Photographs on Playboy's website show Tony Bennett performing at the mansion for Mr. Hefner's 56th birthday party and a 1980 New Year's party attended by the singer Sonny Bono and socialite and kidnapping victim Patty Hearst.

Nonetheless, the mansion is long past its prime and is in need of renovations, Mr. Hyland said.

"It will obviously have to be upgraded," he said.

The sale comes amid a boom in $100 million-plus listings. There are 27 properties listed around the world for $100 million or more, compared with 19 last year.

Properties in that price range can sit for years, but the Playboy property sold in just five months.

Based on the price per square foot for luxury properties in the Los Angeles area, the home would be valued at closer to $27 million, according to Jonathan Miller, a president and chief executive of Miller Samuel Inc.

It isn't uncommon for neighbors to pay a premium to purchase adjoining properties, according to real-estate experts, to ensure someone else doesn't come in and divide the property or disrupt or denigrate the neighborhood.

Stephen Shapiro, a Los Angeles real-estate agent not involved in the transaction, said much of the estate's value is in its acreage and location in prime Holmby Hills. The land alone could be worth $100 million, he said, but the asking price of $200 million was ambitious considering the requirement that Mr. Hefner remain in place.

"I thought it was hard-pressed for somebody to spend over $100 million and not know when they were getting their house," he said.

He said the high-end L.A. market was slow at the beginning of the year but has picked up over the past several months, with several sales above $30 million. There are several homes on the market in Los Angeles for $100 million or more.

Playboy has been undergoing a number of radical changes as it seeks to compete in a changing media environment. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that the magazine hired investment bank Moelis & Co. to explore selling the company. The possibility of a sale arose after Playboy started shopping the mansion and buyers for the company emerged.

People familiar with the matter said the company could fetch more than $500 million, a sum that included the mansion, but more recently Playboy has looked into selling a minority stake or its licensing business, which holds the rights to its iconic bunny logo.

Last week, Playboy Chief Executive Scott Flanders left the company to become CEO of private health insurance exchange eHealth Inc. Ben Kohn, managing partner at Rizvi Traverse Management, was named interim CEO.

Mr. Metropoulos, 32 years old, is the former co-chief executive of Pabst Brewing Company. His firm, along with Apollo Global Management LLC, in 2013 purchased Hostess Brands, the maker of Twinkies, promising to revitalize the brand.