A Los Angeles real estate dealer went from federal prison to being a stakeholder in a $1 billion Beverly Hills property – before he was forced to sell it for just $100,000.
Victorina Noval was imprisoned for tax evasion and mail fraud in 1997, but once released three years later, he reinvented himself.
He went into business with partner Charles ‘Chip’ Dickens to obtain highly prestigious plot ‘The Mountain,’ which was yet to be built on.
They bought it from the trust board of deceased owner Mark Hughes owner of Herbalife, Hollywood Reporter wrote.
The pristine land was unspoiled, atop a large hill and with views from Catalina Island to the San Gabriel mountains – at its height the property was priced at a staggering one billion dollars.
It lured attention from the likes of Jeff Bezos to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and was the most expensive property in America.
But the pair racked up around $200 million of debt and were forced to sell it back to the Trust for a minimal 1/10,000th of the original asking price at auction.
The development is considered a ‘crown jewel’ property with sprawling views of downtown LA and the Pacific Ocean
Victorino Noval (right) was known to lead a lavish lifestyle and was pictured with John Travolta
Noval (right) and Charles ‘Chip’ Dickens (left) were trying to develop the impressive property ‘The Mountain’ which at one point was America’s most expensive property at $1bn
A 157-acre flat hilltop sitting above Beverly Hills sold for just $100,000 after being slashed from its $ 1 billion asking price
Beverly Hills developer Jeff Hyland of Hilton & Hyland described the dealings at 1652 Tower Grove.
He said: ‘[The Mountain] has been fraught with litigation since we sold it to Mark Hughes 19 years ago.
‘It’s been a gold mine for every lawyer that’s touched it. But you could argue that everyone else involved has lost.’
The infamous land was described as ‘dream inspiring’ and was highly sought after by billionaires across the globe.
Over its lifetime it had been owned by both Middle Eastern and Hollywood royalty, including a sister of the Shah of Iran the Princess Shams Pahlavi, and American TV host Merv Griffin in 1987.
The prime property had six plots of land, a helipad and stunning views of Los Angeles.
On a clear day it was claimed that you could see from the San Gabriel mountains to Catalina Island.
Despite it’s overwhelming claims, no one had ever built a house on the property.
It was owned by Mark Hughes, the founder of Herbalife, who at the time purchased the grounds for a record-breaking $8.5 million.
He intended to develop it himself but in 2000 Hughes died and ownership was passed onto the Mark Hughes Trust.
Four years later Dickens had allegedly convinced the former lead trustee, Conrad Klein, to allow him full control.
As part of the agreement, the trust would lend Dickens $23 million to develop the land and ownership for a certain length of time.
Hughes had plans to develop the property for himself however he died in 2000 before any construction work began
The Mountain was once owned by a sister of the late Shah of Iran, the Princess Shams Pahlavi, (left), who had planned to build a lavish palace there, left, the property was later acquired by talk show host-turned-TV-producer Merv Griffin, (right)
The undeveloped parcel of land, known fittingly as ‘The Mountain,’ was acquired by the Mark Hughes Trust, with Herbalife Founder Mark Hughes, who had owned it previously and died in 2000
By 2007, Dickens and Noval had met and decided to partner up and would go onto fight battles from the Trust who wanted to take back property.
The trust suffered several legal defeats in the court, which further reinforced Dickens’ right to continue to work the land.
By 2013, a judge removed Klein from the trust due to the deal with Dickens, which he described as ‘imprudent,’ Hollywood Reporter wrote.
At certain points during this real estate boom in Los Angeles, the property was claimed to have increased in value by up to $500,000 a week, Hollywood Reporter wrote.
Several high profile suitors lined-up including Jeff Bezos who reportedly visited four times, often by helicopter.
In 2018, Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia toured the property alongside Oprah Windrey, Rupert Murdoch and Tim Cook.
Los Angeles Clippers and ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also looked at the property.
While several offers were made, nothing came close to the asking price of $1 billion.
The grounds with their famous 90210 Beverly Hills zip code has gone back into the ownership of the Mark Hughes Trust
The Mountain of Beverly Hills first went on sale last summer for $1 billion but there were no credible offers despite interest
In early 2019, Scott Gillen a developer of upper-high-end properties made a bid for $400,000 – less than half of the listing price.
It’s alleged by Hollywood Reporter that this offer was a PR stunt to generate more interest in the property and to motivate serious buyers.
Real estate broker Aaron Kirman who was brought onto the team by Noval and Dickens to help sell the land, denied these claims.
He said: ‘I got a written offer from very credible agents and a buyer who was known to buy expensive properties.’
Not accepting the deal ‘backfired on them big time’ according to an attorney who represented Noval’s son in 2016.
The publicity of Kirman’s low bid, spurred on the Mark Hughes Trust, who was reportedly owed a large some of money by Dickens.
Lawyers for the trust claimed the figure was at $200 million after fees, penalties and interest. Noval and Dickens thought it was around $80 million.
Believing another legal case was underway Hughes team filed for bankruptcy, which prompted the property to be sold at auction in August.
They allowed the property to be sold for $100,000, believing the further $200,000 million was still owed by Dickens.