March 18, 2007 in Nation/World

Software CEO buying up land on beachfront

Martha Groves Los Angeles Times
Associated Press file photo photo

Oracle Corp. chief executive Larry Ellison is on a buying spree on Carbon Beach.
(Full-size photo)

MALIBU, Calif. – For years now, software magnate Larry Ellison has been on a spending spree here that has caused even his fellow billionaires’ tongues to wag.

By some accounts, he has shelled out as much as $200 million for more than a dozen properties, including five adjacent residential parcels on Carbon Beach, two nearby restaurants, the Casa Malibu Inn and a vacant gas station or two that he apparently intends to use for customer parking.

Carbon Beach, which runs east from the Malibu Pier for about 1 1/2 miles, is also known as Billionaires Beach thanks to its lineup of denizens including philanthropist Eli Broad, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, television financier Haim Saban, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and music magnate David Geffen.

So far, Ellison, 62, has submitted plans to the city of Malibu for two new restaurants, including one that is expected to feature ultra-high-end Japanese cuisine. That would be in keeping with his affinity for the finer things in life and for all things Japanese.

The Oracle Corp. chief executive, who, according to Forbes magazine is worth nearly $20 billion, spent 10 years and a reported $200 million re-creating a Japanese village on his 23-acre estate in Woodside, south of San Francisco. And Rising Sun was the name he chose for his 454-foot yacht, the world’s longest privately owned boat.

Jefferson Wagner, owner of Zuma Jay surf shop on Pacific Coast Highway, speculates that Ellison wants to “control this end of town” because of his restaurant plans.

“He’s buying what he needs to create his little world,” said Wagner, whose PCH store is across the street from some of Ellison’s commercial parcels. “I’m not knockin’ it. It’s an upgrade as far as local merchants are concerned.”

Meanwhile, Geffen is renovating the nearby Malibu Beach Inn, which is taking online room reservations for June.

“Geffen will raise the bar on what has been a dated location but a great hotel,” said Tony Dorn, a longtime Malibu resident and commercial real estate broker.

Geffen and Ellison are enhancing what has been, commercially speaking, a rather funky, forlorn stretch of the coast highway, an odd state of affairs considering the immense collective wealth of the locals. Dorn said Geffen and Ellison were drawn to the properties because there are so few commercial parcels on the beachside of PCH.

Residents and real estate agents say houses on Carbon Beach, even the few remaining relative “shacks,” would start at $20 million. Courteney Cox and David Arquette recently put their four-bedroom, five-bathroom showcase house, with 80 feet of frontage, on the market for $33.5 million.

Ellison’s buying binge started in 2003 when he paid $65 million for five adjacent residential properties on Carbon Beach. Next, a couple of restaurants at the beach’s western end near the pier caught his eye. According to local scuttlebutt, in early 2004 he paid nearly $30 million for the Pier View Cafe and Cantina and the Windsail. Both have been shuttered since. City officials say he recently bought the Casa Malibu Inn. In addition, he reportedly purchased a $20 million home in a gated hillside community just west of Malibu Pier.

The situation is once again turning a spotlight on Malibu’s rich and famous and their hunger for land. One resident who socializes with Carbon Beach’s well-heeled residents and asked to remain anonymous said of them: “They’re sort of in this club. They walk on the beach and schmooze. What they all talked about was how to get more property on Carbon Beach. They’re asking each other if they’ll sell their place for any amount of money.”

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