Believe it or not, there’s a Malibu neighborhood that’s more exclusive than Carbon Beach, Broad Beach, and the Colony. It’s called Watkins Cove, and it’s the setting for a juicy real estate story dug up by The Hollywood Reporter. The tale involves broker Chris Cortazzo, one of Coldwell Banker Real Estate’s top sellers whose celebrity clients, according to the New York Times, have included Ellen DeGeneres, Pamela Anderson, and Josh Groban.
Cortazzo not only reigns in the world of celebrity real estate, he dominates Malibu sales, and, in 2011, he was hired by Zare and Seda Baghdasarian to list their Watkins Cove home. This is when the drama unfolds, but, first, a bit of info on Watkins Cove. THR describes it as picturesque with just six beachside residences (plus another half dozen atop tall bluffs), and though it’s tough for the public to access (it requires a perilous scramble over slippery rocks at low tide), it’s a popular film and fashion shoot location.
The Baghdasarians bought there 13 years ago, shelling out $4.7 million for a three-bedroom house with 100 feet of beach frontage designed by modernist architect Harry Gesner. It seems like they really loved the home—they raised their son there—but they fell on tougher financial times and needed to sell.
Cortazzo, however, apparently struggled to find a buyer. Zare Baghdasarian told THR that potential buyers, including some famous people, toured the property, but they never got feedback on the showings. "When I would express, ‘Why is it not happening? What’s wrong? Shall we do anything?’ He would go, ‘No, no, no. The offer will come, but reduce the price. The price is too high,’" Zare said.
Over the course of 14 months, there were no "solid bids," so Cortazzo offered to buy the place himself for $6.1 million. Then he renovated the home and flipped it—for $15 million.
Now the Baghdasarians are suing, claiming Cortazzo had never really tried that hard to sell the place when they owned it. From THR:
They say he didn't personally attend many of their showings and open houses, leaving them to less-able Coldwell agents, and didn't take their imploring advice to play up the unique critical prestige of Gesner's modernist architecture as well as the matchless seclusion of the cove — only to turn around and lean hard on both when he really had skin in the game. (After renovating the property, Cortazzo commissioned a high-gloss, drone-enabled video to market it and its site-specific context, complete with dreamy synth soundtrack.)
That raises some ethical questions.
This is not the first time someone has accused Cortazzo of being dishonest. A Hong-Kong-based millionaire has also sued Cortazzo, claiming he described the mansion he sold him in 2007 as being one-third bigger than what county records state. The California Supreme Court is taking up that case. The Watkins Cove case is to be heard next year in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Cortazzo’s attorney told THR that Cortazzo, "adamantly denies any allegation of wrongdoing." He also noted his client paid more than the home’s 2012 appraised value.