By Juliet Chung And S. Mitra Kalita
Updated March 31, 2011 12:01 a.m. ET
A Russian billionaire investor paid $100 million for a French chateau-style mansion in Silicon Valley, marking the highest known price paid for
a single-family home in the U.S.
The purchase of the 25,500-square-foot home in Los Altos Hills, Calif., underscores the strength of some luxury properties in an otherwise
depressed housing market.
The buyer, Yuri Milner, 49, who heads Digital Sky Technologies and whose investments include Facebook Inc., Groupon Inc. and Zynga Inc., had no
immediate plans to move into the home, said a spokesman.
Mr. Milner is the stocky founder of DST, a Moscow-based fund that's made a splash in Silicon Valley via its investments. Its first in the U.S. was
a $200 million check for Facebook in 2009. His primary residence is in Moscow, where he lives with his wife and two children.
The sky seemed to be the limit for Mr. Milner's new house, a symmetrical limestone mansion with San Francisco Bay views that was inspired by
18th-century French chateaux.
The home has indoor and outdoor pools, a ballroom and a wine cellar. The grounds include a tennis court and inside are chandeliers and a frieze
around a skylight in the entryway, among other details.
"There wasn't a real budget," said one of the architects, William Hablinski.
Mr. Milner's deal for the home offers a stark contrast to the national real-estate market. Housing data show that prices continue to fall, and
economists have forecast further declines between 5% and 10% for much of this year. While the high end has not been immune to deep discounting
and distress sales, industry watchers say it has been relatively insulated, Luxury buyers often pay cash, allowing them to bypass tighter lending restrictions.
Sales of homes over the $1 million mark rose nearly 4% in February year over year, according to the National Association of Realtors. That compares to
a nearly 8% decline in sales volume for homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000.
"The crummy real estate market is not in the high end. It's only in the lower end and the middle," said Cristina Condon, a real-estate agent at
Sotheby's International in Palm Beach, Fla., who was not connected to the Silicon Valley transaction.
On Wednesday, Ms. Condon closed on the highest sale in Palm Beach County since 2008, a $26.4 million oceanfront home.
The sale of the Los Altos Hills home was previously reported by the website TechCrunch. Design plans for the house began in 2001 and the home was completed
around 2009, according to Mr. Hablinski, who worked on the project with his then-partner Richard Manion.
Mr. Milner bought the home through a limited-liability company; the home wasn't on the market, according to people familiar with the deal.
Mr. Milner, who studied theoretical physics in Moscow and attended the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, began his career in Moscow
in the 1990s. By 1999, he had focused on the Internet after dabbling in everything from private equity to a macaroni-and-cheese factory.
The sellers are Fred Chan and his wife, Annie, who declined to comment through a representative. According to published reports, Mr. Chan founded
Fremont-based ESS Technology, which designs and markets audio and video products for consumer markets, according to the company website.
They have been involved with condominium developments in Hawaii and have an educational foundation, according to published reports.
The Chans are helping to finance the house, having accepted a $50 million note on the house, according to Loren Goldman of First American Title, who
reviewed documents related to the deal. The Chans planned to use the estate as their primary home and traveled to Asia and Europe to acquire specific items
for the house, Mr. Hablinski says.
In Hawaii, the Chans own a 5.4-acre oceanfront estate on Oahu for which they were recently asking $80 million; the property, first developed by
industrialist Henry Kaiser, is not currently listed.
Few deals are known to that rival this one in size. In 2007, investor Ron Baron paid $103 million in East Hampton, N.Y. for 40 acres of vacant land.
In 2008, an investment company linked to Russian fertilizer billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev paid $95 million for an estate owned by Donald Trump in Palm
Beach, Fla.; Mr. Trump had been asking $125 million. Former Global Crossing chairman Gary Winnick around 2000 acquired a Los Angeles estate in the
Bel-Air neighborhood in a complex deal involving money and property for more than $90 million.
—Sarah Tilton and Anupreeta Das contributed to this article.