Hawthorne Savings is no longer just another California thrift. It's now the thrift that bought O.J.'s house.
Last week, the El Segundo-based thrift made national headlines by paying $2.6 million to reclaim the Brentwood mansion owned by former football star O.J. Simpson.
The glamorous home in the tony section of Los Angeles was sold at auction after Mr. Simpson defaulted on a $2.5 million mortgage from Hawthorne. The $900 million-asset thrift had granted Mr. Simpson the loan, originally for $3 million, while he was on trial accused of the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
Although acquitted of criminal charges, Mr. Simpson faces mounting legal debts and a $33.5 million wrongful death verdict that the victims' families won in a civil trial this year. The bank foreclosed on the unpaid portion of the original loan this spring. Now, it's up to Hawthorne to find a buyer-and a profit.
"The house is worth substantially more than the debt ... given what it is, where it is," said Scott Braly, Hawthorne's president and chief executive officer. "That's why we did what we did."
But don't expect Mr. Braly to come out with the next tell-all book about his thrift's dealings with O.J. He's never met the Juice and doesn't plan to. Nor does he have any emotions about evicting Mr. Simpson from his longtime home.
In fact, he's rather blase about what he considers business as usual. "It's been a nonevent," Mr. Braly said.
One of the thrift's principal businesses is making loans to wealthy people who need extra money and can put their large, expensive homes up as collateral, he said.
"He clearly needed the money for his defense," Mr. Braly said. "I think it's probably safe to say that in March 1995, there would have been few institutions willing even to entertain financing Mr. Simpson."
Mr. Braly said the thrift has financed homes much bigger than the Simpson mansion. The gated Brentwood estate features six bathrooms, a screening room, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
To O.J.-watchers, the mansion is immortalized as the place where former L.A. police detective Mark Fuhrman says he found the bloody glove. Its guest house was the home of professional guest and sometime actor Brian "Kato" Kaelin.
Since the 1994 murders, the house has become one of Los Angeles' biggest tourist attractions, with O.J.'s fans and detractors stopping before its gates for a peek or a picture.
Sylvia Long, a real estate agent at the Brentwood office of Coldwell Banker, said Hawthorne got a great deal. A mansion down the street was sold for $3 million recently.
"It was not as nice as his," said Ms. Long, whose firm sold Mr. Simpson the house for $650,000 in 1977. "They certainly can get $3 million. The market has picked up."