Although his identity remained an enigma for a full year, it’s now publicly known that the mysterious and previously unidentified buyer who paid $35 million in cash for the enormous Westlake Village compound of billionaire producer Thomas Tull was not a foreign billionaire or major financier but rather local Ventura County businessman Blake Kirschbaum, a longtime Thousand Oaks resident. Kirschbaum is the owner of Westlake Village-based NuVet Labs, a company that rakes in tens of millions every year by peddling pet supplements — yes, Fido’s daily vitamins.
While the low-profile Kirschbaum isn’t exactly a household name, there’s a very good chance you’ve already heard of NuVet. That’s particularly true if you own a dog or cat “furbaby” of your own, because NuVet has singlehandedly — and controversially — become a headlining leader in the drug market for domestic pets.
A simple Google search for NuVet offers more than 200,000 results and scads of glowing reviews from alleged customers. “NuVet is a lifesaver!” “These vitamins cured my German shepherd’s cancer,” according to the reviews. The NuVet website itself boasts some of the most glowing testimonials of all — “We’ll run out of groceries before we run out of NuVet for the dogs!” user Greg Evans proclaims.
But there’s also a dark side to NuVet, if the internet is to be believed. The company has received particularly harsh criticism for its Herbalife-like business practices, which resemble a pyramid scheme and include close dealings with dog breeders. When a dog or puppy is sold by a breeder to a customer, the breeder is heavily incentivized to push NuVet vitamins on that customer — often whether the pet requires it or not. And when the customer purchases NuVet products via the breeder’s code, the breeder receives a hefty chunk of manufacturer kickbacks, securing a very friendly business relationship with NuVet to be continued indefinitely.
Unkind reports have labeled NuVet products as modern-day “snake oil.” At best, critics claim, the company is selling expensive, ineffectual supplements that pets do not need. At worst, they are making our furry friends sick — or worse — with drugs, all in the name of fattening the company’s already gigantic profits.
NuVet has also entered the crosshairs of the FDA, who have previously censured Kirschbaum for marketing and selling animal drugs without federal approval. And these vitamins assuredly aren’t cheap. A single month’s supply of supplements for one pup can set an owner back more than $100.
Although the $35 million sale price for Kirschbaum’s new woof-woof palace represents the most ever paid for a house in Westlake Village — or in all of Ventura County, for that matter — it also reflects a brutal gut punch of a financial loss for Tull and his wife Alba, who had spent years and tens of millions cobbling together the 33-acre compound, which is easily the most lavish residential property for miles around — sprawling across four contiguous parcels of land. The sale price also represents an eye-popping $50 million discount off the utterly unrealistic $85 million original ask.
The Tulls acquired the land for the village-like estate in separate transactions for about $29 million, beginning in 2011. They subsequently razed several homes and expanded others, and they also privatized the previously public cul-de-sac, which now includes a gated driveway with a guardhouse for a full-time security detail. Today, the property includes a 32,000 sq. ft. hilltop chateau, an 11,000 sq. ft. guesthouse, a detached car museum and several additional structures for guests and staff. Altogether, the compound includes more than 50,000 square feet of interior living space, with 12 bedrooms and a laughable 33 bathrooms.
The megamansion-sized main house offers both formal and commercial prep kitchens, grandly-scaled public rooms, a movie theater, a “sports lounge,” and an elevator. Outside, the property packs in a multitude of extravagances — two infinity pools, a children’s playground, sports court, and a large pond stocked with koi.
All told, the Tulls likely spent well over $50 million cobbling their Westlake Village real estate story together, but they’ve swallowed the major loss and have moved to Pittsburgh, where Tull is part-owner of the NFL’s Steelers.
A thorough comb through property records reveals Kirschbaum has a well-developed appetite for luxury real estate. In addition to homes in Thousand Oaks and Mammoth, Calif., he also owns a lavish estate elsewhere in Westlake Village, with an 11,000 sq. ft. mansion and a swimming pool with a waterfall feature. That property, acquired in 2017 for exactly $6 million, was made available earlier this year as a $7.9 million pocket listing.