Oprah's Grand Plans - Forbes.com


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Movers & Shakers
Oprah's Grand Plans
Betsy Schiffman

Who's buying, who's selling in the world of high-end real estate:

Oprah Outmaneuvers

Nothing succeeds like excess.
Oprah Winfrey, the 49-year-old talk-show host and media mogul, had tongues wagging when she bought a Santa Barbara estate for a jaw-dropping $50 million a couple years ago. (Tongues were wagging especially hard since, according to locals, the house wasn't even for sale at the time.) These days, she's taking a more subtle approach. After she bought the 40-acre property in Montecito, an exclusive area near Santa Barbara, Calif., she immediately started in on renovations. Despite the fact that her construction plans exceeded 20,000 square feet (which would require before-construction approval from zoning officials), Oprah got individual permits for all of the projects, thus avoiding excessive scrutiny of her grand plan--or publicity, for that matter--and also depriving officials of the chance to say "no" to Oprah.

Local officials were befuddled and seemingly disappointed that they couldn't quite object to her plans. In an Associated Press report, one zoning administrator said of Oprah's stealthy strategy: "We find ourselves in a very complicated situation.... There is nothing that occurred on that property that wouldn't have been approved incrementally."

This year, Winfrey became the first African-American woman to join Forbes' list of the World's Richest People with a net worth of $1 billion.

Another Winner For Pete Sampras

Game, set, move.
It was little more than a year ago when one of the world's top tennis players, Pete Sampras, bought his new home in Beverly Hills for a reported $8.5 million. In what may have been a premature case of spring-cleaning gone wild, Sampras and wife Bridgette Wilson-Sampras are picking up and moving out. The couple recently listed their house for $8.9 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. The home was built in 1933 and is designed to look like an old English country house, with seven bedrooms, 8,200 square feet, city views and, naturally, a tennis court.

In 1999, Sampras ranked 42nd on our Celebrity 100 list when he earned $12 million. (His shoe and racket endorsement deals alone brought in $6 million.) He hasn't made our list since. The 31-year-old seems to be taking it easy these days. Although Sampras threatened to quit before his wife gave birth last year, he seems to have had a change of heart. After reconsideration, he said that he'd like to play again.

An Old Mansion For A Young Millionaire

Ewing hangs his (red) hat.
Marc Ewing, the onetime paper billionaire and Red Hat (nasdaq: RHAT - news - people ) co-founder, may be known as an outdoorsman, but he sure is spending a lot of money on his life indoors, too. The youthful 33-year-old tech geek/rock climber is buying a limestone Upper East Side mansion for $11.25 million, according to the New York Observer. The price per square foot, according to the report, is a neighborhood record-setting $1,480 (one-upping the $1,200-per-square-foot price Woody Allen paid for his townhouse). Undoubtedly, Ewing can add it to his collection of homes, which also reportedly includes a $6.95 million Chicago mansion that he bought in 2000.

In 1994, Ewing and partner Bob Young co-founded Red Hat, a Linux company that was named after Ewing's grandfather's lacrosse hat and originally based out of a spare bedroom. In 1999, he made our list of the 400 Richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $670 million. He promptly skipped out of the tech industry (a whole lot richer) and recently started his own rock-climbing magazine, The Alpinist.

Real estate news can be submitted to Betsy Schiffman at bschiffman@forbes.net or by calling her at (212) 366-8937.

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