“You’ve transformed a room full of enemies into a room full of friends,” Aaron Kirman of AKG | Christie’s International, joked. He was surveying the scene The Hollywood Reporter’s third annual LA Power Broker Awards presented by The Society Group and presented by Mauricio Umansky of The Agency. This fairytale feeling of camaraderie was 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 awards were held in collaboration with THR‘s 2023 list of Hollywood’s Top 35 Real Estate Agents, which honors top salespeople in the Los Angeles area based on MLS-listed sales to Hollywood clients, total deal volume and media visibility.
While looking out over views of Lake Hollywood, officers sipped cocktails to the soothing sounds of a string quartet in the 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival castle, with a clear view of the Hollywood sign. “It’s the quintessential old Hollywood house,” May explained. “And the cool thing is, the reason the developer built this house and the two others next to it is because actors and actresses in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air were considered scum, and the studios were here. So they built this for the Hollywood community.”
Castillo Del Lago held special memories for several of the list’s winners. Umansky recalled picking up his daughter Alexia from home after playdates with Madonna’s daughter, Lourdes Leon. Douglas Elliman’s always entertaining Juliette Hohnen recalled giving Rosie O’Donnell a baby shower at the parsonage, during Madonna’s tenure, and many other fun times. “(Madonna) had gardenias everywhere and she smelled like gardenias,” Hohnen said. “You felt like you were going to heaven, and it was truly an experience.”
Umansky served as emcee for the awards ceremony – held over an exquisite outdoor candlelight dinner – despite being a debutant Dancing with the stars the evening before. “I’m exhausted,” he said. “My knee has been bothering me all day. It feels like a watermelon today. And thank God I survived. I was very lucky to be able to make it. I was in the bottom two but I got through it and I’m glad I did because I’m having a blast.”
He continued to indulge on stage, where he good-naturedly roasted everyone – including himself – and even performed a little trick. About the wonderfully flamboyant real estate agent Branden Williams of The Beverly Hills Estates, he said: “He looks like Elvis Presley, but from Vegas years.” Rival brokers were also fair game, as Umansky joked, “thanks Dancing with the starsmy dance scores and my stomach, they’re as flat as Compass 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 deal maker as Umansky gave his speech.
Aaron Kirman – honored with the Agent of Historic Architecture Award – for selling houses like John Lautner’s Garcia House and Steven Bocho’s former home, designed by Paul R. Williams – had the guests in stitches, recalling his early ignorance about architectural origins. “Funnily enough, when I started selling houses when I was very young, 18 years old, I knew nothing about architecture or houses,” he recalls. “And I remember I got a phone call and someone said, ‘I want a Neutra.’ And I said, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to get you so many Neutras. It is not a problem. It’s so easy to find. I literally hung up the phone and I remember asking, “What’s a Neutra?” I had no idea.”
Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency, to the surprise of no one, won the Stratospheric Sale of the Year Award for representing both sides of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s historic purchase of the $200 Tadao Ando-designed Malibu estate million, sold by art collectors and producers Bill and Maria Klok.
Drew Fenton, founder of new energy brokerage Carolwood Estates, won the Team of the Year award. Chris Cortazzo of Compass was honored with the Philanthropic Impact Award for his support of organizations such as The Boys and Girls Club of Malibu and the Elton John Aids Foundation.
One of the most emotional moments of the evening 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 sector.
Gratitude was high as 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 thinking to myself, that’s it. I made it. Were done. Were great. This is the best thing ever. And it is the only list published every year that has sentimental value to us and that we always want to make.”
In an increasingly tough real estate market — beset by interest rates, the much-maligned ULA tax and the proposed Wildlife Ordinance — Harris encouraged his fellow real estate agents to keep the faith. “I think we need to come together and have a glass half full mentality, not glass 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 to our customers and dwell on the negatives. But I think if we all come together and focus on the positives, which is that we live here in Los Angeles, which I think is the best lifestyle in the world, I think if we get that positive message out there, if we exhaling positivity out there, only good can come from that.”
It was a sentiment shared by the Kardashians’ regular Tomer Fridman of Compass as he took the stage to accept the Celebrity Property Portfolio Award. “I think it’s so important for us to, like James said, uplift everyone a little bit, especially in this market,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all rely on each other and the only way to truly get through this is to work together.”
For at least one magical evening – 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 prevailed.
More photos to follow.
The winners of the 2023 LA Power Broker Awards
Team of the Year
Drew Fenton, Carolwood Estates – WINNER
Chris Cortazzo, Compass – WINNER
Stratospheric sales of the year
Kurt Rappaport, Westside Estate Agency – WINNER
Aileen Comora & Paul Lester, The Agency
Jade Mills, Coldwell banker
Agent of historical architecture
Aaron Kirman, AKG | Christie’s International Real Estate – WINNER
Josh Flagg, Douglas Elliman
Brett Attorney, 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 real estate portfolio
Tomer Fridman, Compass – WINNER
Santiago Arana, the Agency
Brett Attorney, 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