Will the Real Donald Bren Please Stand Up?

A petty thief recently stole Donald Bren's tax return check, cashed it, and absconded with the money in a bizarre case of identity theft.

Irvine Home Address … 45 CONCIERTO Irvine, CA 92620

Resale Home Price …… $589,900

May I have your attention please?

May I have your attention please?

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

I repeat, will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

We're gonna have a problem here…

Eminem — The Real Slim Shady

I know this isn't really a real estate story, but Donald Bren is really the elephant in the room that we never talk about. Whenever anyone talks about the Irvine Company, they are really talking about Donald Bren. A somewhat mysterious figure who rarely grants interviews, he is known mostly by the empire he built. He has a personal website that describes him as follows:

For more than 45 years, Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Company, has been deeply involved in California real estate as a master planner, master builder and a long-term investor.

A leader and innovator within the real estate industry, Mr. Bren was one of the first to combine well-designed homes with such amenities as parks and substantial open space, excellent schools, employment centers and shopping centers to create balanced master-planned communities. Through his accomplishments, he has earned a national reputation as an expert in the interrelated fields of planning, design, architecture, construction, marketing and finance.

He also is one of the state’s most generous philanthropists, focusing his contributions to significantly impact education and research, as well as to implement innovative approaches to the conservation of sensitive lands, open spaces and species.

We live the results of his work and his vision every day, and most of us really like it, or we wouldn't chose to live here. His genius is apparent, and the personal fortune he has emasssed is remarkable.

Someone wanted a small piece of it for themselves….

Billionaire Donald Bren targeted in $1.4-million ID theft

A man who looks nothing like the Orange County real estate magnate allegedly opened accounts in Bren's name and deposited a tax-refund check stolen from Bren, a criminal complaint says.

August 05, 2010 — By Walter Hamilton, Los Angeles Times

It would make for a bad separated-at-birth joke if the alleged thief hadn't stolen almost $1.4 million in an identity-theft case targeting one of Southern California's wealthiest men.

A man who looks nothing like Orange County real estate magnate Donald Bren allegedly walked into the Cerritos branch of East West Bank, opened accounts in Bren's name and deposited a $1.4-million federal tax-refund check stolen from Bren, according to a criminal complaint made public Wednesday.

The unknown man then drained more than $1.1 million from the accounts over the next four weeks, according to the complaint by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

Images captured by the bank's surveillance camera show the man to be balding, heavyset and considerably younger than the trim, dapper 78-year-old Bren.

With an estimated net worth of $12 billion, Bren is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 16th-richest American and the 45th-richest in the world.

Even so, his name didn't ring a bell at the bank.

"His name is well known in certain circles, [but] you can't know everyone in the world no matter how famous their names are," said Emily Wang, the bank's marketing director.

The thief, who opened the account with a fake Social Security number and driver's license, didn't allude to Bren's job as chairman of Irvine Co., a giant land developer. Instead, he listed his occupation as "smoke shop," according to the complaint.

Bren declined to comment.

The man opened the accounts Feb. 16 and transferred the money to accounts held by people at outside banks in ensuing weeks, according to the complaint. Investigators are trying to determine who controls those accounts, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

The scheme demonstrates the ease with which identity-theft scams are carried out, said Linda Foley, founder of the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego.

"That's how they get away with it — they're so convincing in who they are that people don't think twice," Foley said.

What does the general public know anyway?

The Darth Vader of Orange County in the 80s…. (3:50 mark)

BIA on The Town! from The BIAOC on Vimeo.

A lesson in failed loan modifications and squatting

Today's featured property was originally purchased on 12/16/2005 for $830,000. The owner used a $650,000 first mortgage, a $179,650 second mortgage, and a $350 down payment…. I hope she didn't struggle to come up with the money.

She defaulted in late 2006 or early 2007:

Foreclosure Record

Recording Date: 08/03/2007

Document Type: Notice of Rescission

Foreclosure Record

Recording Date: 05/04/2007

Document Type: Notice of Default

She apparently received a loan modification — remember how those were going to save the housing market? She then redefaulted in late 2008 and squatted until she was finally kicked to the curb on 4/27/2010.

Foreclosure Record

Recording Date: 06/25/2009

Document Type: Notice of Sale

Foreclosure Record

Recording Date: 03/11/2009

Document Type: Notice of Default

The mid to high end in Woodbury is not safe. This is a significant decline in pricing for our previously strong market segment.

This property was recently purchased at auction as a trustee sale flip. Apparently the flipper that bought this property for $568,000 has cut his price to get out. Given the ongoing buildup of inventory and the flagging sales, that is a wise choice.

If you would like to learn how you can get involved with trustee sales, please contact me at sales@idealhomebrokers.com.

Irvine Home Address … 45 CONCIERTO Irvine, CA 92620

Resale Home Price … $589,900

Home Purchase Price … $830,000

Home Purchase Date …. 12/16/2005

Net Gain (Loss) ………. $(275,494)

Percent Change ………. -33.2%

Annual Appreciation … -7.1%

Cost of Ownership


$589,900 ………. Asking Price

$117,980 ………. 20% Down Conventional

4.57% …………… Mortgage Interest Rate

$471,920 ………. 30-Year Mortgage

$116,236 ………. Income Requirement

$2,411 ………. Monthly Mortgage Payment

$511 ………. Property Tax

$317 ………. Special Taxes and Levies (Mello Roos)

$49 ………. Homeowners Insurance

$271 ………. Homeowners Association Fees


$3,559 ………. Monthly Cash Outlays

-$404 ………. Tax Savings (% of Interest and Property Tax)

-$614 ………. Equity Hidden in Payment

$201 ………. Lost Income to Down Payment (net of taxes)

$74 ………. Maintenance and Replacement Reserves


$2,816 ………. Monthly Cost of Ownership

Cash Acquisition Demands


$5,899 ………. Furnishing and Move In @1%

$5,899 ………. Closing Costs @1%

$4,719 ………… Interest Points @1% of Loan

$117,980 ………. Down Payment


$134,497 ………. Total Cash Costs

$43,100 ………… Emergency Cash Reserves


$177,597 ………. Total Savings Needed

Property Details for 45 CONCIERTO Irvine, CA 92620


Beds: 3

Baths: 3 full 1 part baths

Home size: 2,200 sq ft

($268 / sq ft)

Lot Size: n/a

Year Built: 2005

Days on Market: 63

Listing Updated: 40394

MLS Number: S619829

Property Type: Condominium, Residential

Community: Woodbury

Tract: Wdtr


BOM… Huge reduction…. Highly upgraded Woodbury Townhome!!! Like a model home.. Gourmet kitchen with granite counter tile, upgraded cabinetary, stainless appliances, marble on all bathtops and the wall of the shower rooms, custom bulit-in book shelf, pre-wire for speaker system with volume control in all rooms. All bed rooms have their own bath and large walk-n in Master. One master bed on first floor. Designer Paint. Highest quality hardwood flooring, upgraded carpet and travertine. Great yard for you to entertain your family and friends. The Association Amenities Include BBQs, Clubhouse, Pools, Tennis and Sport Courts. Come and Enjoy Living in Woodbury.

Can someone translate what BOM stands for? I have no idea what this realtor is trying to say.


Note the three exclamation points after townhome. It's a bit like 666: !!! the mark of the realtor.

Why does this description lapse into title case toward the end?

30 thoughts on “Will the Real Donald Bren Please Stand Up?

  1. scottinnj

    I’ll guess BOM is Buy Of the Month? But that is starting to sound like used car salespeak not used home salespeak.

    I’d advocate we could also use this innovative listing language and have BOM stand for Bull****OMeter. We could score either the listings or analysis linked on scale of say 1-5 on the BOM. 1 would be total absence of BS while a 5 would be pure unadulterated BS straight from the pasture. For example the piece linked last week on IHB from the Atlantic is probably a 5.

  2. Shadax

    Judging from how it has been used in the past, I’d say “Back on (the) Market”. It would make sense, it has been relisted recently.

  3. Planet Reality

    One thing it doesn’t stand for is nice yard.

    Probably back on market, one of the multiple Irvine cash rich offers must have backed out.

    He gets a $1.4M tax return? It’s a good thing the renters are paying taxes.

    1. HydroCabron

      Hmm. If only the renters are paying taxes, then the Irvine homeowners must be in some deep debt distress. Since it takes over $950 per month in interest to beat the standard deduction (married), I fear for the indebted squires of Irvine. At 5% interest, that’s $228K in mortgage debt just to beat the renters at the tax game.

      Of course, the tax advantage of owning in Irvine will not be enjoyed by these all-cash buyers.

      1. Planet Reality

        My state taxes are more than $950 a month. Kalifornia baby!

        That will pay a few IE unemployment checks.

        1. Swiller

          Well…it will pay for 2…$450 a week for unemployment benefits. Most people don’t even bother looking for a job, as most will pay LESS than $450 and you have to bust your a$$.

          The real problem is…..corporations are making billions of profits, but they could give two shits about quality of life for americans. It’s all about PROFIT. Democracy, freedom, and liberty, have taken a back seat to pure capitalistic profit. I can understand why many people and nations consider America evil. It sure is looking that way the longer I live here and see the results of what our government has wrought.

          Bad times are here, and most people will vote for the bad times because they are AFRAID. With this type of attitude, pretty soon you will be thanking your masters for jamming a stick into your backsides, and they will tell you to be thankful you can still FEEL PAIN.

          1. Freetrader

            Got news for ya Swiller: Democracy, Freedom, and Capitalism are all indespensible to each other. You should thank God/Allah/Jor-El that we don’t have a system where some bureaucrat gets to decide who makes what and how much each of us gets to keep. Our system is f’d up alright, but it’s the least F’d up one available.

  4. wheresthebeef

    BOM = back on market. Don’t know why they just didn’t spell it out. Someone paid 830K for a townhouse? That’s it, I’m leaving!

  5. lowrydr310

    the personal fortune he has emasssed is remarkable

    Throughout my career as a woodworker, I have emassed a bunch of cabinetary.

  6. rkp

    These seems well below comps at $268 a sq ft. Realize plenty of inventory but doesn’t make sense to buy full cash at trustee sale to only make $20k.

    IR- you used to follow up on weekend posts of the houses that sold. Are you planning on doing that? Would be interesting to revisit these posts when the properties either get foreclosed or sold. Yes I can track myself but wondering why you stopped.

      1. rkp

        $288 vs $268 is a big difference in terms of profit. Its $65k profit vs $20k profit. I see a lot of people at trustee sales and I am nervous to pull the trigger. At $20k, you lose money in transaction costs and fixing it up but at $65k, much better chance of seeing some profit.

  7. Swiller

    Donald Bren looks like death warmed over…I mean he looks like our typical republican representative.

    Do you think Donald pays his fair share of child support? Most people have to pay a percentage of income, but not Donald…


    I do believe the guy selling the BONGS has a higher moral fiber than Donald Duck Bren. I would certainly TRUST him more.

    1. wheresthebeef

      They want 2.2 M per month. That is ridiculous and probably more than your average worker makes in their lifetime. Maybe Donald can adopt me…

    2. Dive credit

      You gotta give Donald Bren credit for NOT running for office like many rich people do. As far as the money, sure he benefitted a lot from the housing bubble but he did not create it. In the end nobody can take it with him/her and Warren Buffet knows this better than anyone else…

    3. irvineshadow

      lol child support lawsuits. You can be the 16th richest man in america, and you’re slumming with those at the bottom of the barrel by not paying your child support :snake:

  8. Sue in Irvine

    “Bringit on Man”

    Oh, a tub between the sinks. Someone hates that. Was it Tony?

    I really like the kitchen and the wood floors.

  9. jb

    The U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis(released March 2010) reported that the US per capita income as well as the California per capita income dropped for the the first time in 20 years in 2009.

  10. Kitty

    Blessing of Might

    I always wonder about how Woodbury will fare, given that I rent here, and all the open houses I’ve been to, as resales have almost always posted below the original sale price. -That or they’re on the market for eleventy billion years a la 35 Twiggs. (It was actually rented out for a year, before it went to short sale in late 2008/2009 and went through the foreclosure dance before finally being sold in April of this year)

  11. Kathy

    Must admit that we should salute Donald Bren that he is very successful business men.

    However, IMHO, his wealth partly built upon the failure of our government , the dropping quality of education, along with possible political monopoly to affect the OC land development.

    think about, what if the 133, 241 261 and even 91 all are not toll road, what if Corona can reach Irvine in 20 minutes without traffic jam, what it the public education system can get more money and does not rely on melros. Do you think Irvine RE value will still triple than Corona’s?

    How about, if no bail out and 0% interest rates, in a way, the TIC wealth is built up the tax’s payers money, in last 10 years, while the world is moving upward, does TIC does allure any tier-1 company to OC? A lot of the new built office building sit empty.

    What if San Onofre’s power plant is removed and home can be built, it seems like his is the biggest donator to Terminator (and some other politicians) , does not try to affect anything?

    What if Irvine city manager and workers pay are fair so that have better policy in recent years, such of them I feel so much in favor of TIC.

  12. irvine_home_owner

    It’s code to the FCBs: Buy One More

    I find it funny that although IR has been dissecting listings for years now, he still doesn’t get all the lingo. Just shows there is still hope and he’s not totally in league with the Emperor.

    P.S. Where did you get that picture of me with my gun collection?

  13. Anonymous

    So basically, when I make my mortgage payment, the Fed will use it to print an equivalent amount of money. Thereby increasing the money supply which will ultimately cause inflation and erode the value of my remaining house debt!

    Takes the “house as moneymaker” phrase to whole new level …
    Fed : the Committee will keep constant the Federal Reserve’s holdings of securities at their current level by reinvesting principal payments from agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in longer-term Treasury securities

    1. Planet Reality

      Just wait until we get quantitative easing 3: fed buying all remaining toxic debt at par value.

  14. Chris

    IR, can you explain why you included $49 Homeowners Insurance in your calculation when there’s already HOA payment which does cover fire insurance for the home?

    Is it for flood? Earthquake? Home ransacking?

  15. theyenguy

    I was too callow to have bought a house in the Woodbury neighborhood of Irvine, California in the early 2000s by using only a few hundred dollars dollar and a second mortgage to cover what the first mortgage did not.

    I hope IHB readers are not callow in believing that the model of buying a home as a investment will survive given the economic and investment risks that are readily apparent to a discerning individual.

    On August 10, 2010, gold rose on an unwinding of the Euro Yen and other Yen based carry trades which sent currencies, stocks and commodities lower as concerns grew over sovereign debt and limited capability of the US Federal Reserve to deal with current economic challenges.

    Personally I rent and own no real estate. I am invested in gold coins so that I will have some means of protection against the severed downturn that is coming.

Comments are closed.