Inside The Hollywood Reporter’s Power Broker Awards Hosted by Mauricio Umansky
“You’ve transformed a room full of enemies into a room full of friends,” Aaron Kirman, of AKG | Christie’s International, quipped. He was surveying the scene at The Hollywood Reporter’s third annual L.A. Power Broker Awards, presented by The Society Group and hosted by The Agency’s Mauricio Umansky. This fairy-tale feeling of camaraderie hung in the air all evening, no doubt enhanced by the enchanting setting of the legendary Castillo Del Lago estate, formerly owned by Madonna. The home is currently co-listed (for $18.9 million) by Linda May and Brett Lawyer of Carolwood Estates.
The honors were held in conjunction with THR’s 2023 list of Hollywood’s Top 35 Real Estate Agents, which honors top sellers in the greater Los Angeles area based on MLS-listed sales to Hollywood clients, overall deal volume and media visibility.
Looking out over views of Lake Hollywood, agents sipped on cocktails to the soothing sounds of a string quartet, in the Spanish Colonial Revival castle built in 1926, with a clear view of the Hollywood sign. “It is the quintessential old Hollywood house,” May explained. “And the fun thing is that the reason the developer built this house and the two others that are next door is because actors and actresses were considered riffraff in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, and the studios were over here. So, they built this for the Hollywood community.” Libations from Don Fulano Tequila and La Marca Prosecco were poured while the all-female Orchid Quartet played.
Castillo Del Lago held special memories for several of the list’s honorees. Umansky recalled picking up his daughter Alexia from the home after playdates with Madonna’s daughter, Lourdes Leon. The always entertaining Juliette Hohnen of Douglas Elliman remembered throwing Rosie O’Donnell a baby shower in the manse, during Madonna’s tenure, and many other fun times. “[Madonna] used to have gardenias everywhere and she would smell of gardenias,” Hohnen said. “You felt like you were going into heaven, and it was really an experience.”
Umansky served as emcee for the awards ceremony — held during an exquisite outdoor candlelight dinner — despite having debuted on Dancing with the Stars the night before. “I am exhausted,” he said. “I’ve been icing my knee all day long. It feels like a watermelon today. And thank God I made it through. I was very lucky to make it. I was down to the bottom two, but I did make it through, and I am glad I did because I’m having an absolute blast.”
He continued to have a blast on stage, where he good-naturedly roasted everyone — including himself — and even did a little jig. Of the delightfully flamboyant broker Branden Williams of The Beverly Hills Estates, he said: “He looks like Elvis Presley, but from Vegas years.” Rival brokerages were also fair game, as Umansky joked, “thanks to Dancing with the Stars, my dance scores and my stomach, they’re as flat as Compass’s stock.”
Umansky was also a winner of the evening, receiving the Media Maverick Award from last year’s co-recipient Matt Altman, who playfully held up a copy of Umansky’s book The Dealmaker as Umansky gave his speech.
Aaron Kirman — honored with the Agent of Historic Architecture Award —for selling such houses as John Lautner’s Garcia House and the former home of Steven Bocho, designed by Paul R. Williams — had the guests in stitches recalling his early ignorance of architectural pedigree. “Funny enough, when I started selling homes when I was very young, 18 years old, I knew nothing about architecture or houses,” he recalled. “And I remember I got a phone call and somebody said, ‘I want a Neutra.’ And I said, ‘Oh my God, I’ll get you so many Neutras. It’s not a problem. It’s so easy to find. I literally hung up the phone and I remember going, ‘What is a Neutra?’ I had no idea.”
Surprising no one, Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency won the Stratospheric Sale of the Year Award for representing both sides of the historic Beyoncé and Jay-Z purchase of the $200 million Tadao Ando-designed Malibu estate sold by art collectors and producers Bill and Maria Bell.
Drew Fenton, founder of the new power brokerage Carolwood Estates, won the award for Team of the Year. Chris Cortazzo of Compass was honored with the Philanthropic Impact Award for his support of organizations including The Boys and Girls Club of Malibu and the Elton John Aids Foundation.
One of the most emotional moments of the night was when childhood friends Michael Fahimian and Jack Harris of The Beverly Hills Estates won the Rising Star Award. They had tears in their eyes as they expressed their appreciation for the industry.
Gratitude abounded when James Harris of Bond Street Partners, who won Condo Sale of the Year for their $21 million condo sale at The Century, accepted the award on behalf of himself and partner David Parnes. “The Hollywood Reporter was the first list David and I made in 2016,” he said. “And I remember just thinking to myself, that’s it. I’ve made it. We’re done. We’re great. This is the best thing ever. And it’s the one list that gets published every year that has a sentimental value to us and that we always want to make.”
In an increasingly tough real estate market — battered by interest rates, the much-maligned ULA tax and the proposed Wildlife Ordinance — Harris encouraged his fellow brokers to keep the faith. “I think we need to come together and have a half glass full mentality, not half empty,” he said. “I think it’s very easy for us to dwell on the negatives and it’s very easy for us to all go out to our clients and dwell on the negatives. But I think if we all come together and we focus on the positives, which is that we live here in Los Angeles, which is I think the best lifestyle in the world, I think if we put that positive message out, if we breathe that positivity out there, only good can come from it.”
It was a sentiment shared by the Kardashians’ go-to Tomer Fridman of Compass when he took the stage to accept the Celebrity Property Portfolio Award. “I think it’s just so important for us to, as James said, to kind of uplift everyone, especially in this market,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all rely on one another and the only way to make it really through is if we collaborate.”
For at least one magical night — including at the after-party, held at the stunning, new $38 million Californication House, developed by Branden and Rayni Williams and Jason Somers — this spirit of unity and appreciation reigned.
Chris Cortazzo, Compass – WINNER
Stratospheric Sale Of the Year
Kurt Rappaport, Westside Estate Agency – WINNER
Aileen Comora & Paul Lester, The Agency
Jade Mills, Coldwell Banker
Agent of Historic Architecture
Aaron Kirman, AKG | Christie’s International Real Estate – WINNER
Josh Flagg, Douglas Elliman
Brett Lawyer, Carolwood Estates
Mauricio Umansky, The Agency – WINNER
Rochelle Atlas Maize, Nourmand & Associates
Jade Mills, Coldwell Banker
Condo Sale of the Year
James Harris & David Parnes, The Agency – WINNER
Leo Medeiros & Bridget Reeves, The Agency, and A. Demitrous Walker, The Hills Premier Realty
Jason Oppenheim & Heather Young, Oppenheim Group; Tomer Fridman, Compass; Cassandra Petersen, Coldwell Banker
Celebrity Property Portfolio
Tomer Fridman, Compass – WINNER
Santiago Arana, The Agency
Brett Lawyer, Carolwood Estates
Michael Fahimian & Jack Harris, The Beverly Hills Estates – WINNER
Alexander Howe & Weston Littlefield, AKG | Christie’s International Real Estate
Zac Mostame, Carolwood Estates
Bryce Pennel, Compass
Nichole Shanfeld, Carolwood Estates