Sunday, January 18, 2009

A flock of mansions hit the market at bargain prices

Two years ago, Louis Gonda was a billionaire. Then in September, American International Group Inc., the company from which Mr. Gonda derived the bulk of his wealth, collapsed, its shares falling from nearly $60 a share in January 2008 to less than $2.

Worth an estimated $1.4 billion according to the March 2008 issue of Forbes magazine, Mr. Gonda is selling assets. About a month ago, he put his Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion, an eight-bedroom brick Georgian he's owned for more than 20 years, on the market for $42 million. Within a few days Mr. Gonda lowered the price to $35 million.

In an email, Mr. Gonda says that with his five children grown, he and his wife plan to travel more and no longer need the home. Situated on 1½ acres and a block from the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, the house has a rectangular pool, a tennis court and a five-car garage, says Mr. Gonda's real-estate agent, Zach Goldsmith, of Hilton & Hyland, an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates.

In July, Mr. Gonda sold a rare beachfront parcel in Playa del Rey, a Los Angeles beachfront community, for $2.4 million, says listing agent Dan Christian, of Shorewood Realtors. Mr. Christian says Mr. Gonda had bought the plot a year before and razed the existing house to make way for a new structure.

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