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(Bloomberg) -- Five months before he got married, Tim Koogle, Yahoo’s first chief executive officer, was in the market for a house. It was early 2003, and he and his fiancée, Pam Scott, “were looking for our first house together,” Koogle said. “I asked her: When you walk out of the door in the morning, do you want to have your feet land on dirt, or asphalt?” The answer was an emphatic “dirt,” and so, after a brief search, they purchased a midcentury modern house on 12 acres in Los Altos, Calif., for about $8 million.
“The seller needed to sell—he was in over his head for a bit of money, and I picked a price, took care of the closing fees, and basically made him whole,” Koogle said. “We got a great deal.”
By May of that year, they were married and had moved into the home.
Fourteen years later, Koogle and Scott are selling, putting the house on the market with Richard Williamson at Sotheby’s International Realty for $19.4 million.
The house, which has four bedrooms, four and a half baths, and spans 5,440 square feet, was built in 1955 and includes a detached four-car garage, pool/guest house, and outdoor terrace.
When Koogle moved into the house, it was “95 percent complete,” he said, so the couple’s main preoccupation, after furnishing it, became how best to use its ample entertaining space: There’s a large dining room, open-plan living room, enclosed patio, plus additional land outdoors.
In 2004, the couple began to host an outdoor gathering of friends and “interesting people” that they called, punnily, a “Salawn Series” modeled off Parisian salons of the Belle Époque. “Just as an experiment, we knew interesting people, and we’d invite them over to give a talk at an outdoor gathering, and then have a long interactive session,” he said. “And then everyone would stay after, so that it could extend long into the evening.”
Guests of the series included the chef Alice Waters; Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York; the cultural anthropologist Richard Kurin; and the acting provost and under secretary for museums at the Smithsonian in Washington. “He brought a bunch of curators out with some artifacts and photos and gave a long, beautiful talk,” Koogle said.
Also part of the series was Elon Musk—“when he was just starting Tesla”—and Micky Hart, the ex-drummer of the Grateful Dead, who at the time was working on translating vibrations from deep space into audible percussion. “He also collects folk drums and brought enough for everyone at the salon,” said Koogle. “He led 70 or 80 people in a drum circle, and I’m still surprised the cops didn’t bust us.”
Simultaneously, the couple began to develop an organic farm. “It was a passion of my wife,” Koogle said. “She’s been into organic garden and farming for some time, and we’ve got a south-facing slope that’s perfect for growing.”
They started with a small, enclosed piece of property that Koogle estimates measured no more than a quarter of an acre.
Eventually they expanded it to more than an acre and now have more than two-dozen fruit trees, a variety of vegetables, and other fruit. Help with maintaining the farm came from groundskeepers and, more often, friends “who love gardening and farming but don’t have land,” he said. “Maybe a dozen friends fit the bill, so we gave them gate codes and wrote up chores on a blackboard in the chicken booth.” The friends were paid with produce, while much of the rest of the farm’s output was donated to local food banks. “It was like a little commune, but no one lived there,” he said.
The couple decided to give up their mini-utopia for a straightforward reason: They have at least six other houses, including a home in nearby Marin County, three homes in Mexico, one in Seattle, “and a bunch of other properties,” Koogle said. “We’ve started to realize that we don’t use all those very much, which is silly.”
In an effort to pare down, Koogle, who is currently an active investor and board member in for-profit companies through his venture capital company, a land developer, and the co-director of his philanthropic foundation, decided it was time to let the property go.
“We don’t have to sell it,” he said. “But simplification is winning out.”
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