Jeff Hyland, a real estate powerhouse who helped shape L.A.’s luxury market, dies at 75
Jeff Hyland, a luxury real estate powerhouse who co-founded the brokerage Hilton & Hyland and helped reshape the staid industry, has died at 75.
His brokerage announced the news in an Instagram post, saying he died Wednesday after “privately battling cancer for the last year.”
“I am thankful to all of you for sharing your wishes and prayers during Jeff’s illness. Your support and kindness has touched me deeply and I know you mourn with me now,” his wife, artist Lori Hyland, wrote in the post.
An L.A. native, Hyland opened Hilton & Hyland with hotel scion Rick Hilton in 1993, and over the last three decades the firm has grown into one of the top luxury brokerages in Southern California, overseeing billions of dollars’ worth of sales of iconic estates across the region.
“Thirty years ago, Jeff and I started on this journey,” Rick Hilton wrote in the post. “Throughout, a great partnership and a deep friendship were forged and Hilton & Hyland emerged as a force in the industry. Jeff was a legend. His knowledge about real estate and architecture was unparalleled.”
When Hyland started selling homes at age 28, real estate agents were seen as staid professionals who handled complex transactions with little fanfare for big-name brokerages that got all the cachet.
But Hyland has been credited with helping to transform the industry with luxury broker-celebrities whose personal connections made them wealthy themselves. Hilton & Hyland agents become famous on their own in the exploding world of real estate reality TV, such as on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles.”
Over the years, he listed and sold some of L.A.’s most notable estates. In 2019, he engineered the record-shattering sale of Chartwell, the Bel-Air mansion featured in “The Beverly Hillbillies,” for $150 million. It was the most expensive home sale in California history, although it has been topped multiple times since.
“He considered selling those iconic houses as Super Bowl rings,” said Hilton & Hyland agent Gary Gold, who worked with Hyland on the Chartwell sale. “From the beginning, Jeff had only one goal: to sell the best homes in Los Angeles.”
The pair attended numerous real estate conferences together, and Gold said whenever Hyland walked in, it was like Elvis Presley entered the building.
“Every owner of every luxury brokerage in the world wanted to be like him. He was the person everyone aspired to be,” Gold said.
Never short on ambition, Hyland made headlines in 2019 when he listed the legendary 40,000-square-foot Bel-Air mansion of financier Gary Winnick for $225 million — the priciest publicly listed home in the country at the time.
In 2020, he sold LeBron James a Mediterranean-style compound in the Beverly Hills Post Office area for $36.75 million. Last week, he listed the Manor, a 56,000-square-foot chateau in Holmby Hills, for $165 million.
Not every transaction was a glamorous blockbuster, recalled Luke Anderson, who served as Hyland’s assistant for four years until 2019.
One afternoon the two sat on lawn chairs outside an $11-million tear-down on Thrasher Avenue. The wind picked up, and Hyland quipped that “hopefully the wind will blow hard enough to knock the house down and save the buyer some money,” she said.
“I knew him more than most people did. He had a heart, a tender side. He cared about this city, the homeless, the agents,” Anderson said. “If an agent was behind on bills, he’d write them a check.”
Hyland grew into one of the foremost authorities on L.A. real estate and became an architectural historian and author, with books including “The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills,” which explores the history and architectural significance of the area’s most prized properties.
“He knew everything about every major estate. His wealth of knowledge was unmatched, and so was his leadership,” said Linda May, an agent with Hilton & Hyland.
Hyland grew up in Little Holmby, a Westwood neighborhood tucked between Holmby Hills and UCLA. A restless youth at Warner Avenue Elementary, he struck a deal with his mother that if he managed to stay in school until 2 p.m. every day instead of getting sent home for misbehaving, on Fridays they’d go grab a burger at Barney’s Beanery followed by a stop at C.C. Brown’s ice cream parlor.
He took full advantage of the California climate in his teen years, skiing in the mountains in the morning and sunbathing and surfing at the beach well into the evening.
After high school, he headed east to New York’s Cornell University, but California soon called him back and he finished college at United States International University in San Diego. He earned a degree in business administration but quipped to The Times that he’d majored in surfing.
Hyland ventured into real estate in 1975, becoming an agent with Coldwell Banker and Mike Silverman & Associates before founding the brokerage firm Alvarez, Hyland & Young in the 1980s — a time when his interest in iconic properties began to grow.
In 2020, Hyland teamed up with Bonnie Stone Sellers, a former chief executive of Christie’s International Real Estate, and founded Forbes Global Properties, a sort of Zillow for the ultra-rich. The Beverly Hills-based internet platform highlights a curated selection of luxury homes.
“I’ll shepherd this; it’s been a lifelong dream,” he told The Times that year. “In all the things that I’ve done, this is probably the culmination of 40 years of single-family luxury real estate.”
In a statement, Forbes Global Properties called Hyland the “guiding light” behind the business.
“Jeff was a giant with boundless talent and leadership,” Sellers said in a separate statement. “A force of nature, his passionate expertise and creative vision for Forbes Global Properties are a lasting testament to his legacy.”