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John McMonigle and His Rise, Fall, and Rise Again in Real Estate

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November 3, 2017by Originate Report Team

John McMonigle is defining his legacy in a variety of ways. While he has made several friends and enemies, his legacy can be defined by his grit: falling down twice, including once where he went both bankrupt and got divorced, but having the strength to get up again a third time to do it all over again.

From Rags to Riches

John McMonigle is well-known throughout the California real estate market. Before he became a real estate mogul, however, he arrived in California from Oklahoma with $73 in his pocket in 1989. Nearly 15 years later, he became the top-grossing U.S. salesperson in the Coldwell Banker chain. He did so well that he bought an inland parcel in Newport Coast and developed a plan for what he dubbed Villa del Lago, which would include a “three-story, 17,000 square-foot mansion, private lake and horse stables,” according to the Orange County Register. He once asked $87 million for the property. It eventually sold during the downturn for $18.5 million.

During this run, McMonigle lived in a 10,700 square foot home in exclusive Shady Canyon, a gated luxury enclave in Irvine, Calif. But some people at the time didn’t credit McMonigle with personal success; rather, they named his marriage to the daughter of former Nestle USA Chairman and CEO Joe eller as the reason for his success.

During its heyday, John and his McMonigle Group represented some of the highest listing prices in the nation. He led Oprah Winfrey’s television crew on a tour of the Portabello Estate in Corona del Mar for her show. He sought $75 million for the property. He even told the Orange County Register that he sold $438 million in real estate in 2010 and expanded from 26 to 71 agents. He was on  a roll. Over a 5-year period, McMonigle sold an astounding $2 billion worth of properties. And yet the next year, 2011, John McMonigle filed for bankruptcy and nearly lost the empire he built.

…to Rags

On or about April 11, 2011, McMonigle stated to the Orange County Register, “In a necessary move brought about by an ongoing stalemate with uncooperative lenders in an unrelated real estate development business, John McMonigle, founder and principal of Newport Beach based luxury real estate firm, McMonigle Group Inc., has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.” Both Villa del Lago and his luxurious new office in Fashion Island were being foreclosed on by his bankers. Many of the 71 agents left the agency, which he blamed on negative press and competition.

To make matters worse, his wife of 16 years, Nicole, filed for divorce. Around that time, McMonigle said to the Orange County Register, “The divorce was devastating to me and the sense of loss immeasurable. I love my wife very much and my children are the most important thing to me. This is 100 times harder to deal with than business. My business associates and friends have been very supportive and I have learned a great deal about who my friends truly are.”

Reflecting back, he said, “It is easy to look back and say yes we took on too much risk. I take full responsibility for the failures. There were several factors I never expected, such as construction lenders that went bankrupt and investors that simply did not answer cash calls, which I cannot blame them for, due to the sharp drop in values and breach by lender. I put my money where my mouth was. I believe that we live in the most beautiful part of this great country, and this will always be an enviable place for affluent people to aspire to and I am forever committed to serving our clients and investing in this Gold Coast.”

With this devastating turn of events, it’s hard to imagine him ever coming back. Between 2011 and 2017, McMonigle worked for a variety of agencies, including Teles Properties and Berkshire Hathaway, where he slowly built up his realty empire again. Fast forward to 2017, and McMonigle is back with a new team and a reality TV show.

…to Riches?

John relaunched McMonigle Group with five agents and is showcasing once again some of California’s most expensive properties, including a $30 million lot in Santa Monica and a $42 million dollar property in Laguna Beach. Further, he is starring in a new show on Bravo called “Real Estate Wars,” which showcases his career achievement of $6.1 billion in real estate sales and his “unapologetic life of luxury.” The show will pit him against another real estate firm called Relegance Group who are pitted against each other to obtain the highest listings and sell the best properties in Southern California.

So How Did He Come Back?

While he declined to sit down to be interviewed by Originate Report, we believe his renaissance can be found in the ashes of his decline. When asked by the Orange County Register if both his critics and supporters believe he’d be back, he stated, “I think people who get clobbered in this economy have to stay strong, grounded and focused, and change with the environment. I get up every morning grateful to be alive and healthy. I understand that in this type of market there are equal parts catastrophe and opportunity. I have experienced the former; I anticipate the latter. I am focused on working hard and doing my best.”

On his Twitter account, he stated that motivation is the key to staying on top of his industry and shared an article that had 7 tips on how to stay motivated:

1.Make a difference.
2.Treat Yourself.
3.There is no win too small.
4.Recharge the batteries.
5.Trick yourself.
6.Get healthy.
7.Define your legacy.