Inside the Battle of Herbalife’s Succession for Beverly Hills’ Billion Dollar Mountain

high above the light The mountains of Los Angeles keep Hollywood powers and business moguls from scheming and scheming underneath. Many have coveted its 157 acres, but the mountain has remained out of reach. Spanning a surface area over 100 football fields, this lush, verdant peak was once the prize of a billion-dollar Middle Eastern royalty, A-list star, and mega-moguls. Rihanna, Salma Hayek, James He Cameron, Elon Musk and others made the pilgrimage to the mountains to tour his Oscars party and his ball for charity. But the only creatures that call the mountains home are the deer that roam nearby. At other points known as Tower Grove or Vineyards, the mountains of Beverly Hills are arguably the city’s most spectacular undeveloped parcels of land.

For the few who owned it, the mountain was both a blessing and a curse.The last Shah of Iran’s sisters once owned the mountain. She was planning to build her brother in exile a palace until Molotov her cocktail-throwing Iranian students changed their minds. Next came Merv Griffin, who built the city’s biggest mansion in his quest to be the best Aaron Spelling. Then he ran out of steam. In 1997, Griffin was sold to Herbalife guru Mark He Hughes for his $8.5 million, setting a then Southern California record. Hughes made plans to build his dream home there, but all his dreams fell apart. Three years after Hughes purchased the lot, he died of an alcohol and antidepressant overdose, reportedly leaving his $400 million estate, which included The Mountain, when he was eight years old. was passed on to his only son, Alex.

And a brutal war ensued, Alex and his mother Susan Hughes against three trustees who were responsible for protecting the estate’s assets until Alex was 35. “They wanted to be Mark Hughes instead of acting like trustees, and they wanted to develop Mountain themselves,” said Susan. VFs Susan, who has filed numerous lawsuits, alleged the group made “arbitrary and capricious” decisions and was hostile to Alex. and she wanted to remove them. Her trustee denied her accusation and Susan lost. She cast herself as David up against Goliath in a pre-#MeToo world and denied her claims that her mother was protective of her child.

“The impression that everyone had on the trustee’s side was that Susan was suing to take over the trust herself because she was the mother of an only child and heir, and therefore That’s Mark’s money, and he’s doing it for Alex’s benefit, even if Mark doesn’t have enough insight into the people he’s naming and they end up abusing the trust. had the right to choose who wanted to manage it. VFs “I never got the impression that they were in control of the property because they cared about Alex.”

The trustee consulted a psychiatrist and a rabbi about the potentially harmful effects of wealth on children. Edward A. Woods, then-attorney for the Trustees, said in a 2005 interview: Los Angeles Times: “Does he need a chandelier, or will he be satisfied with something from IKEA?” Any kid would be fine with IKEA, but Alex grew up in a mansion and couldn’t see any budget fixtures. Susan said Alex’s lifestyle when his father was alive included “holidays with Mark in luxury beach homes, cruising on Mark’s yacht, and driving Mark’s fleet of luxury cars.” or attended events of extraordinary prestige, luxury and extravagance.” As Susan saw, Mark hired councilors to maintain Alex’s lifestyle, not downgrade it. , is a flatterer and a dictator.” “They hate Susan. She criticized them. They don’t like being criticized.”

As the legal battle rages on, Alex finds himself in the unwanted spotlight of being dubbed “America’s richest teenager.” At the center of the lawsuit was the pile Mark wanted to leave for his son. The facility would have cost about $250,000 a year to maintain through 2020, but upkeep has never been an issue. The trustee saw potential as a development site. In 2004, the trustee sold the mountain to Atlanta businessman Charles “Chip” Dickens in a no-cash transaction, lending Dickens the money to buy the mountain, and the mountain was lost. When Alex turned 18 in December 2009, he hired his own lawyer and filed his own lawsuit to dismiss his trustee. He won in 2013 largely because the trustees botched the Mountain sale so badly. Judge Mitchell Beckloff ultimately ruled that the trustees had demonstrated “near recklessness,” “serious damage to trust,” and “serious breach of trust.” According to the court’s ruling, the trustee lent Dickens money, who had neither the experience nor the money, but he remained silent and did nothing as his company continued to default. The trust is currently operated by institutional trustees of the Fiduciary International Trust of California. Alex, now 30, declined to be interviewed, but his sources say Alex agreed with his mother’s actions. (“Their interests are always aligned,” said the legal source.) “He’s not ready to speak.” (Alex is an independent producer and recently co-produced his Spacemaker Productions is the founder of armageddon time, Starring Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and Anthony Hopkins, it received a standing ovation at Cannes in May. ) “My son’s privacy is very important,” says Susan. “He didn’t ask for this.”

golden hour bloomed when you reach the top of the mountain. Colorful ribbons of light and jet contrails linked the sky, and herds of deer flitted in the distance. My guide gasped. Not cardio, but a long sigh of relief.

“Standing here is worth it,” said Susan Hughes. The mountains were Mark’s dream, not hers.But she’s ready to talk about the fight to keep it and her life with her fuse.”Have you seen it?” insider?” She asks about tobacco industry whistleblowers, referring to the 1999 film starring Al Pacino (coincidentally based on the 1996 film). vanity fair paper). “That’s how I’ve been feeling for 13 years. Open up today, it takes a lot from me. It brings me back there.”

At about 1,400 feet of drop and just beyond LA is the Pacific Ocean. On July 4th, Susan says he will see five enclave fireworks displays, including Malibu, Marina Del Rey and Encino. “After Alex’s father passed away, he wanted to take us here to see the fireworks, but the trustee wouldn’t give us the keys.”

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