Billionaire Twinkies owner and next-door neighbour buys Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion

A view of the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, US, Feb 10, 2011.
A view of the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, US, Feb 10, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

(Reuters, AFP) - The famed Los Angeles mansion of Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, is under contract to be sold to the billionaire Twinkies owner who lives next door, a spokesman said on Monday.

The buyer is Daren Metropoulos, a 32-year-old business tycoon who lives on the property next door to the mansion, which he bought from Hefner in 2009 for US$18 million.

The Gothic Tudor-style mansion, with an area of 1,858 square metres, was listed earlier this year for US$200 million (S$271 million), Reuters reported in January.

Metropoulos, who declined to disclose the purchase price, is a principal at private equity firm Metropoulos & Co, which co-owns Hostess Brands, the maker of Twinkies, an iconic American snack.

"We can confirm that the Playboy Mansion is in escrow with Daren Metropoulos as the buyer. Due to confidentiality restrictions, we are not able to comment on any specifics, including what contingencies need to be cleared to close the sale," a Playboy spokesman said in an emailed statement.

In addition to a tennis court, free-form swimming pool and other amenities, the estate is home to the Playboy grotto, which over the years was the setting for some of Hefner's most lavish parties.

The mansion was built in 1927 and purchased by Playboy in 1971 for a reported US$1.1 million, a figure property agents said was the largest real estate transaction in Los Angeles history at that time.

It was emblematic of Hollywood's excess, hosting its infamous pool parties with a lingerie-only dress code for the female guests who cavorted in the caved grotto.

Elvis Presley reportedly slept with eight Playmates at once at the 12-bedroom stately home, while John Lennon once burned a Matisse original with a cigarette.

Hefner, the 90-year-old owner of the Holmby Hills estate in southern California and founder of Playboy Magazine, will be permitted to continue living there for the rest of his life.

Metropoulos, son of billionaire and private equity investor Dean Metropoulos, 70, hopes eventually to connect both properties once Hefner dies.

"He is pleased to continue to have Mr Hefner as his neighbour and feels fortunate and privileged for the opportunity to serve as a steward of this historic property," according to a statement from a spokesman for Daren Metropoulos.