PALO ALTO -- Living the fantasy of every homeowner who's faced the prospect of a nuisance project next door, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has bought four homes adjacent to his own 5-bedroom crash pad in one of Palo Alto's toniest neighborhoods.
Zuckerberg paid top dollar -- more than $30 million in total -- for the four residential properties located next door and behind his own home. But he has no plans to build a Taj Mahal on the land, according to a person with knowledge of the transactions, who said Zuckerberg is leasing the existing homes back to the families that live there.
The 29-year-old multibillionaire acted after he learned of a developer's plan to buy one of the properties next door to the Facebook co-founder, said the source. "The developer was going to build a huge house and market the property as being next door to Mark Zuckerberg."
Zuckerberg is one of several prominent tech CEOs who own homes on Palo Alto's tree-lined streets. Yahoo's (YHOO) Marissa Mayer and Google's (GOOG) Larry Page live there, as did the late Apple (AAPL) chief Steve Jobs. Page created a modest stir a few years ago when he bought four adjoining properties in a fashionable, older neighborhood where he's building a 6,000-square-foot abode.
Zuckerberg, who lived for many years in modest rented digs, reportedly paid $7 million two years ago for the 5,000-square-foot home in Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood where he lives with his wife, physician Priscilla Chan. Zuckerberg, whose personal fortune is estimated at $19 billion, also owns a home in San Francisco.
Although he tries to keep his personal life low-key, Zuckerberg's Palo Alto residence drew pickets last February when he hosted a political fundraiser there for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Zuckerberg's shopping spree started in December last year, when public records show the home directly behind his was sold to a legal entity associated with Iconiq Capital, a San Francisco firm that handles financial matters for Zuckerberg and other wealthy individuals.
Then last month, two more homes behind Zuckerberg's and one next door were bought by entities associated with Iconiq, according to public records. The sales were first reported Thursday by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
Zuckerberg paid different prices for each home, shelling out more than $14 million for one 2,600-square-foot dwelling. A local real estate agent called the amount "absurdly high," even for that pricey neighborhood. But James Yang, an agent with Sereno Group who focuses on Palo Alto and neighboring towns, said the price is less surprising "if somebody wants to buy a property and the sellers don't want to sell."
Spokesmen for Facebook and Iconiq declined to comment or couldn't be reached Thursday.
Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022; follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey.