Former Providian CEO’s ‘Western White House’ Listed for $35 Million
(Bloomberg) -- In 1997, the same year that the credit card giant Providian Financial went public, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, Shailesh Mehta, purchased a 22,300-square-foot, 24-room mansion in Hillsborough, Calif., about a half-hour drive from downtown San Francisco.
The house, a deliberate echo of the White House that was designed in 1930, wasn’t actually what Mehta was looking for.
“My son had just gotten married, and—coming from Indian culture—the concept was that we would remain close but still have our own boundaries,” Mehta explains. “So we were looking to buy two lots next to each other in Hillsborough. He’d build a home on one, I’d build a larger one on the other, and as we grew older we’d switch.”
They’d even found adjacent lots that fit the bill, but Mehta’s broker mentioned that there was an additional option: The so-called Western White House, set on 2.9 acres, was in escrow to a billionaire who, because of a currency freeze, couldn’t get his money out of the Philippines to close the deal.
“The realtor said, ‘If you can close this transaction fast, you can have the home,’” says Mehta.
Living in the same house with his wife and college-age daughter, alongside his son and new wife, was, for obvious reasons, a very different prospect than two houses on adjacent lots. But Mehta was intrigued, and the entire family drove over to see the listing.
“We liked the property and the security, and it’s so understated from the outside, we all just fell in love,” Mehta says. “Plus, it was quicker than building two new houses.”
He purchased the property for what Zillow records as just over $6 million and, after a series of renovations to make the house appropriate for two families—easy enough with its 10 bedrooms, 11 full baths, and 4.5 baths—he moved in.
Twenty-five years later, a lot has changed.
Mehta stepped down as CEO of Providian in 2001, and his children eventually found their own homes, leaving Mehta and his wife alone in a house that could comfortably accommodate a family of 18. “It’s a great place,” Mehta says. “It’s just that it’s just the two of us.”
Now, he’s putting it on the market with Jennifer Gilson of Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty and Max Lo of Green Banker Realty for $35 million. “We want a smaller home to grow older in,” Mehta says.
About a decade after Crocker’s death in 1897, the family sold the house, but not the land, to a local contractor who moved the palatial home about a half-mile to a new lot, where it stands today.
The house then came into the possession of George Hearst, son of the media tycoon William Randolph, who hired the architect Julia Morgan, who’d previously designed Hearst Castle, to redo the home inside and out.
The result is a neoclassical facade that bears an uncanny resemblance to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, albeit on a slightly more manageable scale.
A Few Improvements
When Mehta bought it, “the house was in beautiful shape,” he says. “There was no need to touch the structure. It was built in an era when houses were made to last.”
He did, however, put several million dollars into improving the gardens, interior mechanical systems, and bathrooms.
“We changed the driveway, put in better gates, and so on,” he says. He built a gazebo, put in a walkway to the pool house, and renovated the Olympic-sized swimming pool. He also built two master suites at either end of the house so the two families could coexist peacefully.
“It really worked out,” Mehta says. “We had a great time.”
The House Today
The home is spread across three primary levels, each of which can be accessed via an elevator. Visitors approach through an electronic gate, rise up a driveway surrounded by greenery, and come to the double-height, colonnaded entrance.
The front door opens on an entrance hall with a fireplace adorned with plaster garlands, a huge chandelier, and a large staircase leading to a second-floor landing.
The 6,630-square-foot ground floor is devoted entirely to entertaining. One side of the house has a living room that spans the width of the home and overlooks the covered terrace.
In the center of the house is a series of sitting areas, including a 34-foot-deep “family room” that overlooks the pool at the rear. The other side of the house has a huge kitchen, a dining room, a butler’s pantry, and a breakfast room.
The second floor has six bedrooms, all but one en suite; there’s also an office with its own fireplace and a sitting room at the top of the staircase.
The attic floor has three more bedrooms, a media room, and a large sitting room that opens onto a rooftop terrace.
Over the years, Mehta has used the house to host family parties, massive political fundraisers, weddings, and engagement parties.
After leaving Providian, Mehta managed his family office, Granite Hill Capital Partners. In recent years, he says he’s stepped back and “my son has taken over for the next generation.”
Even though his children moved out of the house, Mehta says, his grandchildren have often come to stay.
After some time, though, he and his wife decided that 27,000 square feet was too much to handle. “We love this house,” he says, “and we’ll miss it. But every home has its time.”
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