As hes built Brandes Investment Partners, Charles Brandes has followed legendary value investor Benjamin Grahams founding principles right down to those on corporate governance. One rule Brandes impresses on his analysts is that the firm should invest only in companies run by executives committed to building shareholder wealth, not personal empires. But a peek at Brandess estate in Rancho Santa Fe, California, called Suncatch and built by architect Norm Applebaum, might make some people think of empires.
In June 2006, when Brandes was managing about $100 billion in assets, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that, at $40 million, the residence on his 30-acre estate was the most expensive ever built in the county. Brandes and his wife, Tanya, opened their home to a Union-Tribune reporter, showing off open spaces filled with sunlight and minimalist furnishings. A far cry from the classical architecture of Brandess childhood near Pittsburgh, his Rancho Santa Fe mansion is pure California. It boasts walls and ceilings that appear to float, an indoor pond, a 125-foot swimming pool and an aesthetic based on Frank Lloyd Wrights vision of a house integrated with its landscape. Applebaum used many of his own signature elements, such as wood-covered steel beams and cantilevers, when designing Suncatch, which took five years to build about the minimum time that Brandes aims to hold his stocks.
The architect said in 2006 that he wanted the home to appear to defy gravity. One of his biggest challenges was making a 27,000-square-foot house livable and inviting. The solution was to section it into separate, smaller wings. Suncatch has ten bedrooms and, perhaps more important for a collector of Ferraris, an underground garage with room for 37 cars. Theres also plenty of space for entertaining. The Brandess annual Halloween party has been a must-attend event for the San Diego County in-crowd.
The Rancho Santa Fe estate may yet prove to be a value investment. To build it, Brandes started buying property in 1997. Tearing down a structure owned by a convicted savings and loan executive to make room for his own home, Brandes might have been thinking of all the money he made off the S&L crisis.