Some people collect baseball cards, some collect comic books. In a particular stratosphere of wealth, the collectible of choice is real estate. And trophy real estate collectors have two favorite spots: Palm Beach and Malibu.
The billionaire class has taken to stockpiling trophy real estate in the last 10 years. Trophies are considered properties that surpass the $50 million threshold. The markets that serve these buyers are storied tony enclaves: the Hamptons, Aspen, Jackson Hole, certain buildings in New York City.
But arguably the hottest trophy real estate markets in the U.S. sit on opposite coasts, offering the same elements of privacy, exclusivity, and star-studded history. As far as trophy markets go, Malibu and Palm Beach stand out for their aspirational qualities, overlooking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, respectively.
The areas also benefit from the economics of scarcity. In Malibu, only so much buildable land is available on the bluffs. For Palm Beach, the barrier island’s size limits its housing stock to just 2,500 homes.
The markets have attracted avid collectors. In Malibu, billionaire a16z co-founder Marc Andreessen dropped $255 million on trophy properties in just six months. Florida native and hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin’s campaign for trophy acquisition has spanned a decade, and the Citadel chief now owns at least $450 million and 24 acres of Palm Beach property.
To see how they really stack up against each other, The Real Deal compiled the top four trophy sales in each market for a showdown.
All-Time Top Sales
At the absolute top of the Malibu and Palm Beach trophy markets are record sales for all of California and Florida.
Andreessen broke the California sale price record last October when he bought a 7-acre oceanfront estate in the Paradise Cove section of Malibu for $177 million. The estate includes a 10,000-square-foot mansion, two guest houses, and a movie theater.
Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder of Oracle, shattered the Florida sale price record when he bought the former Ziff family estate known as Gemini in Manalapan in June for $173 million. Manalapan is 10 miles down the coast from Palm Beach.
Ellison got more than double Andreessen’s land: Gemini spans 16 oceanfront acres. The compound has 30 bedrooms spread across a main house, a secondary house and two beachside cottages. Among Gemini’s many amenities are a tennis court, golf area and a staff house.
Natural gas billionaire Michael Smith and hedge fund billionaire Scott Shleifer’s purchases rank as the second priciest in each market.
Smith bought his oceanfront Malibu estate from Hard Rock Cafe founder Peter Morton for $110 million in 2018, briefly holding the price record in Los Angeles County. The compound includes a four-bedroom, 4,600-square-foot house and a three-bedroom, 2,300-square-foot secondary house.
Prior to Ellison’s Gemini purchase this year, Shleifer held the Florida price record for his $122.7 million purchase of a 2.3-acre Palm Beach spec estate last year. The oceanfront mansion spans 21,000 square feet, with nine bedrooms, and 12 bathrooms. Amenities on the property include a hair salon and an outdoor movie theater.
Shleifer’s dollar certainly stretched farther than Smith’s in these deals. Shleifer paid nearly $13 million more, but has about 14,000 square feet more than his fellow trophy buyer.
Billionaire media mogul Byron Allen recently closed on a $100 million acquisition of an oceanfront Malibu estate, the most expensive residential real estate purchase ever by a Black American.
The 3.6-acre property was featured on the last season of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” The Kardashians are friends with former owner Diana Jenkins, a current cast member of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” The 10,700-square-foot mansion comes with private beach access, a guest house and staff quarters.
In Palm Beach, German businessman Dr. Ernst Langner sold his oceanfront compound for $109.6 million to an unknown buyer last year. The 2.7-acre property includes a nearly 16,000-square-foot mega mansion with nine bedrooms and 10 full bathrooms.
Once again, the Palm Beach trophy buyer won in terms of size. While the properties’ acreage is comparable, Allen paid about $9,300 per square foot, and the Palm Beach buyer paid just $6,875 per square foot.
In the final trophy property match up, billionaire WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum and billionaire hedge funder Ken Griffin are the buyers on each coast.
Koum bought a $100 million estate in Malibu’s Paradise Cove in 2019. The 3.1 acre compound includes a 14,000-square-foot, five-bedroom main house and two guest houses, as well as private access to the beach and a tennis court.
Also in 2019, Griffin paid $105 million for a 5-acre compound known as “La Follia,” which included residences totaling more than 37,500 square feet and 13 bedrooms.
The matchup reveals once again that the Palm Beach buyer got more for the money, with Griffin’s property outdoing Koum’s in terms of acreage, square footage of the home, and price per square foot.
So which trophy market comes out on top? That depends on the metrics. Palm Beach trophy properties boast larger sizes and slightly higher prices, while Malibu’s trophy collectors are willing to pay thousands more per square foot — simply because it is Malibu.