When I turned 50 in 1995, I began to think about how my life would evolve. I realized that I wanted to have a home in the wine country of Sonoma, California. During this period, I had often been traveling to Italy. I fell in love with Tuscany but knew that it did not make sense to buy property there as I thought I would continue to be based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
As a child, I spent a lot of summers in Sonoma. The area around Boys Springs was the west coast version of the Borscht Belt on the east coast, going back to the beginning of the last century. For instance, I have many photos of my grandparents vacationing there in 1920.
One day, I explained to my son, Asher, my desire to have a place in Sonoma because it reminded me of Tuscany when I suddenly realized that perhaps, I loved Tuscany because it reminded me of Sonoma.
After failing to buy a suitable home, I decided to build one, knowing how difficult and expensive that could be. But I went ahead and made the home of my dreams. It took years from when I bought the land in Kenwood, California, in 1997 to moving in in 2001. When I started, I was a the height of my career as both Vice President of Corporate Development and co-founder of Intel Capital, the most successful corp venture group in technology during my time. By the time I moved in, I had left Intel two years earlier. I was single when I started living with the woman that I have now been married to for almost 20 years, Deborah.
In 1996, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and treated with radiation by the end of that year. But things did not go well. I had used a relatively new therapy called brachytherapy, which Andy Grove used the year before. So Andy’s experience had a significant influence on me. But instead of the PSA (the marker for prostate cancer) going down, it slowly and then quickly rose. It looked like my cancer was metastatic and would gradually spread through my body and ultimately kill me, but it would not be an easy death. I used to say people die and then go to hell, but with prostate cancer, the order is reversed.
In the summer of 1999, after leaving Intel, did I want to embark on this project, knowing I might not be around to enjoy it for long. I had worked very hard on every element of the design. The house was a creative expression of my being. I decided that I was not building a house but creating a work of art that would live far beyond me. I still feel that way.
After moving in early in 2001, we gave it a name, The Villa Megilla. It was never our only home except for one year in 2009. We had a home in San Francisco at first, then in West Hollywood, and finally in Tel Aviv, where we live now. At the beginning of our life at the Villa Megilla, many friends came and visited. There were many parties and family celebrations, including the wedding of my son Asher and his bride, Kirsten. My children and their children, my sister, her children, and grandchildren spent countless days there. But slowly, things changed. The grandchildren had a lot of commitments. Asher and Kirsten moved from living just 20 minutes away to almost 1000 miles away. We no longer felt like entertaining friends. The center of our life moved from California to Israel. Once we complete building our home in the center of Tel Aviv, we put the question that was once unthinkable, should we sell the Villa Megilla. In 2017, we made that decision in the affirmative.
It took four years to find a buyer. The wildfires, in particular, slowed the market even though our home, which has a masonry wall 18 inches thick and a copper roof, would have withstood a fire. We were only able to go back twice in four years. In 2018, our assistant, who lost her home in the big fire of 2017, was living at our place. We returned in 2019. On the night of our arrival, I learned that my beautiful daughter, Dafna, had just died. In 2021, we came back for a few months, having skipped 2020 because of corona.
We have no idea what we will do next. But, for sure, we will spend the summers traveling and auditioning places where we may have a summer home, such as Greece.
I have sadness and relief that we have now sold our beautiful home. We are now moving our things, including all the art Deborah and I collected over the years. We are giving much of that way to our family because we will never have a home again large enough to contain all of it.
There have been times when we felt anguish thinking that we were tearing down so much of what we built together, but then there are times when we are very excited about the prospects for the future.