Inside the story: The auction of Nicolas Cage's Bel-Air estate
The saga of actor Nicolas Cage’s Tudor mansion on an acre of prime real estate in the leafy environs of cushy Bel-Air took a final twist this week on the concrete steps of the county courthouse in Pomona. An auctioneer wearing an orange polo shirt and black shorts called for an opening bid of $10.4 million three times and was met with silence.
You can read the full story or view images of the baronial estate at latimes.com, but in a nutshell the Academy Award-winner bought the gated property in 1998 for a estimated $7 million and put it on the market four years ago at $35 million. Listed most recently at $17.5 million, an attempt last fall to generate sealed bids at a minimum of $9.95 million failed to move the debt-saddled home.
If you've never been to an L.A. County foreclosure auction, it's a sobering experience. The auctioneer, who would identify himself only as Charlie, first read off 50-some addresses and why those properties' auctions were either postponed (mutual agreement was often the reason) or canceled (bankruptcy was a common cause). That left about 20 properties on the docket for the day's auction. Charlie said the scenario is repeated five days a week both in Pomona and at the county courthouse in Norwalk.
Why wouldn't Charlie give his last name? Well, think about it. In some people's minds he may seem like Dr. Death, providing the final blow to the hopes and dreams of homeowners and investors, and a convenient flashpoint for anyone bent on revenge or looking for somewhere to lash out.
The auction has a start time of 10:30 a.m. but it's more like 10:50 before the action begins as the cancellation announcements drone on. Regulars and people in the know don't arrive until about 10:30. They bring collapsible canvas chairs (many with cup holders) and carry cashier's checks to make their purchases. Some read books during the wait or make phone calls. In the pecking order of the auction, the front row is usually reserved for registered bidders. Those without chairs stand behind or on the sides, some actually standing on part of the courthouse steps.
Asked in what order the properties would be auctioned, Charlie said it was his call. Perhaps because he knew several people in attendance were waiting for the Cage property he called it second. In less than a minute, ownership of the mansion reverted to the foreclosing lender, which held the second of $10.35 million.
Borrowing against the trophy home included loans totaling $18,375,000, according to County Records Research, a Huntington Beach-based company that supplies information about foreclosure properties.
Now loans three through six are wiped out or unsecured from the property.
The lenders still have options, as these were cash loans after Cage bought the house, reported Bob Baker, sales manager for County Records Research. Those lenders may still seek payment.
Photo: The 11,817-square-foot Bel-Air manse has a central tower, a custom wine cellar, a 35-seat home theater, six bedrooms, nine bathrooms and an Olympic-size pool. Credit: Everett Fenton Gidley