HILLSBOROUGH -- The heir to a mansion tucked amid 47.5 wooded acres is seeking to sell the place for $100 million, but whoever pays that price won't be able to move in to the 16,000-square-foot home until the owner dies.

Sotheby's International Realty quietly introduced the ancestral estate of Christian de Guigne IV last year to its global network of wealthy clients. Now the agency is getting the word out to a wider audience, buoyed by the November sale of investor Tully M. Friedman's estate in Woodside for an eye-popping $117.5 million.

De Guigne, 76, was born and raised in the Mediterranean-style home, which was built by his grandfather between 1914 and 1918, and he has lived there much of his adult life. He doesn't plan to ever leave. De Guigne (pronounced "Deh GHEEN-yay") aims to maintain a life estate on the property, said Sotheby's luxury real estate agent Gregg Lynn, meaning the buyer can't reside there until de Guigne passes away.

"That's the way all property used to trade up until the 20th century," said Lynn, who described the estate as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for buyers who are both incredibly wealthy and patient.

"I think the specialness here is the sheer size," Lynn added. "To have 47.5 acres 20 miles from San Francisco and 5 miles from (San Francisco International Airport) is something that's incredibly rare."


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Muscular market

The estate is the latest entrant into a very strong market in Silicon Valley for luxury homes. Before a secretive buyer, rumored to be Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, snapped up Friedman's palace on Mountain Home Road, Russian investor Yuri Milner paid $100 million in 2011 for a mansion in Los Altos Hills.

Ken DeLeon, owner of DeLeon Realty in Palo Alto, said the market for homes above $5 million is hotter than he's ever seen it.

"You have technology doing well," DeLeon said, "but also a lot of international people who are coming here buying second homes."

The owner of the Hillsborough villa is looking to sell the property for the purpose of estate planning, said Lynn from Sotheby. His two grown daughters have no interest in living there.

De Guigne floated a proposal several years ago to subdivide the property into 25 single-family homes, but he withdrew it in January 2009 amid the collapsing economy and criticism from neighbors. The ultra-upscale town indicated at the time that the land, situated on a hillside that is steep in places, could only accommodate 10 homes.

The owner's preference now is to keep the land intact, Lynn said. But aside from the wait to move in, de Guigne will not place any other restrictions on the buyer.

De Guigne has struggled in recent years to maintain the lavish way of life to which he was accustomed, according to state appeals court records of his divorce about a decade ago from his wife, Vaughn. The two feuded over child and spousal support.

The couple maintained a staff of servants and took expensive vacations, records show, though neither worked, relying instead on Christian's annual income from investments and a trust of $240,000. However, because household expenses averaged $450,000 a year, the husband sold off assets, such as an antique knife collection valued at $425,000, to make up the difference.

Prominent architects

The estate's land has been in the de Guigne family for about 150 years. Christian de Guigne I was a prominent businessman who at one point in the 19th century owned a chunk of downtown San Mateo.

The property lies above San Mateo Creek south of Crystal Springs Road. The mansion, designed by the prominent San Francisco architecture firm of Bliss & Faville, contains numerous bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a grand ballroom, a library and a pool. The exterior boasts gardens and hiking trails.

Likely suitors for the property include Bay Area multimillionaires or billionaires who want to establish a future home for their families, Lynn said, and international clients who want a presence in Silicon Valley.

"It has to be someone interested in the long term," Lynn said. "You must wait for the big acreage."

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.