A new report from The Daily Mail—so, yes, taken with a grain of salt—claims that Vanity Fair suddenly killed a story on billionaire property developer Mohamed Hadid, father of Gigi, Bella, Anwar, and one of the biggest, ugliest half-built mansions Bel Air has ever seen.
The Daily Mail compares the situation to the much-publicized Gwyneth Paltrow controversy of a few years back, when VF editor Graydon Carter pulled a story on Paltrow after the actress sent a mass email asking friends not to work with the magazine in protest. At the time, Carter claimed it was pulled because the not-actually-that-critical story had become over-hyped and readers expecting an “epic takedown” might be disappointed.
Whether it was killed because the story was softer than expected or because celebrities were threatening to pull coverage in support of Paltrow, the prevailing takeaway was that Vanity Fair is essentially unwilling to trade Hollywood access for journalistic objectivity. The implication this time is that Gigi and/or Bella Hadid (both of whom have posed for the magazine before in varying capacities, and are highly in-demand models) perhaps threatened the magazine in response to a negative story on their father, and although there is no evidence of this—stories are killed all the time, for a number of reasons, and there’s no proof that the story existed at all—there’s really no way to tell the story of Mohamed Hadid, and especially of this particular mansion (which angry neighbors have nicknamed “starship enterprise”), in a way that is not extremely unflattering.
Mohamed Hadid, who sometimes guest stars on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, is facing criminal charges for continuing work on an illegal mega-mansion (reported asking price: $100 million) that looms precariously atop a Bel Air hillside. Clocking in at an absolutely absurd 30,000 square feet, the mansion is about twice the legal height limit and possibly endangers the homes underneath it; construction began on it without the city’s permission. Hadid ignored stop work orders and revoked permits and allegedly hid construction progress behind tarps and potted plants. The house’s features include, among other things, an IMAX theater.
According to an earlier Daily Mail report, an elderly neighbor claimed Hadid called her a “bitch” for not giving him her land and built a retaining wall on her property without permission; the Daily Mail somewhat dramatically now reports that the neighbor has died, having “spent almost all of her last years in her bedroom overlooking Hadid’s construction work.”
The New York Times reported in December that the although Hadid was very publicly and repeatedly flouting the law, it was “an extremely complicated case” because the home is not actually owned by Hadid but by a shell company named 901 Strada L.L.C., a system that helps shield him and other members of the billionaire class from seeing legal consequences. A neighbor, entertainment lawyer Joseph Horacek, told the Daily Mail: “I know this has been characterized as a fight between millionaires and billionaires and the millionaires are jealous of the billionaires’ money—but it bears no resemblance to that.”
From the Times:
The Horaceks have made documenting the violations at No. 901 almost a part-time job. The battle over the property, Mr. Horacek said, “started out as a matter of principle, then it got to the point that, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is unsafe.’” They live directly down the hill, and they showed a reporter photos that appeared to show landslides.
The Horaceks are hardly the only upset neighbors. There is the Walmart heir, Ms. Laurie, with her damaged eucalyptus. Carole Cramer, who sang with Tommy Dorsey, says Mr. Hadid encroached on part of her property. Another critic is Fredric D. Rosen, well known for his tough tactics in building Ticketmaster into a powerhouse.
“We all want to know how that house got to be the size it did,” Mr. Rosen wrote in an email to city officials in February, adding, “We all feel that we are being gamed.”
Hadid told the Times that his neighbors are “extortionists”; Horacek countered that he turned down a $2.5 million offer to drop his complaints. City officials told the Times that the building project has given them “no cooperation.”
According to The Daily Mail, Horacek claimed that Hadid threatened to let the property “rot.”
During battles with Horacek and other neighbors, Hadid threatened to shut down all work and leave the building as it was. In a misspelled text message to the 75-year-old lawyer, he said: ‘You won joe. You are the greatest warrior for belair. You won the battle and the war. You should be proud of your self.’ he added. ‘I am going to just let the building rot.’
In another, sent in 2014, he wrote: ‘I am sure you are happy that you got over 200 people jobless,’ adding: ‘Karma has no expiration.’
They report that the photographer Art Streiber was at Horacek’s home shooting photos “when a desperate call came through telling him to scrap the shoot and go home.” And:
Freelance writer William Stadiem was commissioned to write the article late last year. He conducted interviews with Hadid and many of the neighbors and local officials who were involved in the story. He had submitted the article which had been closely fact-checked, before Carter’s decision came down.
When contacted by Daily Mail Online, Stadiem said he could not speak about the decision without permission from the magazine.
Bizarrely, after the decision to spike the story, Carter personally sent Horacek one of Streiber’s pictures showing him and his wife posing in their back garden — but with Hadid’s monstrous mansion Photoshopped out, making it appear they were standing in front of a bare hill.
The Daily Mail also reports that Hadid has begun to tear down parts of the mansion, and is due in court on Friday next week on misdemeanor charges.
We’ve reached out to Vanity Fair for comment, and will update if we hear back.