LOS ANGELES — The heated legal battle between pop star Katy Perry and a local businesswoman over who owns a hilltop convent in Los Angeles will drag on for months more after a judge on Thursday all but hit pause on the dispute.
In his preliminary ruling, L.A. County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled that the order of nuns — who were bequeathed the aging 8-acre estate more than 40 years ago by a devout parishioner who asked that they keep him in their prayers — appeared to have improperly bypassed the archbishop to sell the property to Dana Hollister, the owner of a handful of local restaurants and bars.
Hollister agreed to purchase the estate in June for $15.5 million, and is considering turning the convent into a boutique hotel. Perry, on the other hand, made a competing agreement with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles to buy the 1927 estate — nestled in the Los Feliz neighborhood near Hollywood — for $14.5 million to refurbish as a residence.
“She wants to make it her home,” Perry's attorney, Michael Starler, said outside court Thursday.
But in an interview with BuzzFeed News, Hollister said going with Perry's offer "doesn’t make any sense" considering it's $1 million lower.
"They just want Katy in there," Hollister said.
The entrepreneur with a knack for redeveloping properties also insisted that she hasn't decided whether to convert the estate into a boutique hotel, pointing out that such a move would require a zoning variance and approval from city commissioners.
And despite accusations from the archbishop that armed security guards have blocked access to the property, Hollister said they have been nothing but accommodating.
"We have no animosity towards her," Hollister said. "We are trying to be polite, but it is a little soul destroying. We do own it... It's a weird situation."
In addition to the nuns' competing agreement, the archbishop has been thwarted by the fact that the grant deed has already been issued to Hollister, although the sale has yet to go through.
While the legal fight has centered on who has the authority to sell, there are also competing views of which buyer is more suitable to take ownership of the villa-style complex, which was converted into a convent in the 1970s after being bequeathed to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The two surviving nuns of the sisterhood — Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman — moved out in 2011, and they agree with the archbishop that the convent should be sold. They just don't want the buyer to be Perry, citing the "Roar" pop star's image.
“It should be obvious that Catholic nuns are not enamored with the image Katy Perry puts out,” the attorney for the nuns, Bernard Resser, told BuzzFeed News. “Katy Perry's image isn’t exactly in fitting with the sisters."
In court documents, the two sisters contend they are the rightful decision makers over the convent and moved quickly to grant the sale to Hollister when they learned the property was going to be sold “out from under them” to Perry. They also claim that the archbishop unilaterally amended their order's bylaws, appointing non-sisters to the board that controls the property and ultimately approved the sale agreement with Perry.
Despite his preliminary ruling Thursday, neither side can claim victory yet. A hearing in October has been scheduled to suss out who legally owns the title to sell the convent.
However, Chalfant did not want the property to languish empty in the interim.
Starler, Perry's attorney, told the judge that his client is eager to rent the estate and pay what the archdiocese estimates at $200,000 a month.
But with Hollister also saying she is fully solvent and willing to do whatever is necessary to stay, Chalfant ordered the competing buyers back on Sept. 15 to show why they would be a better tenant than the other. Until then, Hollister can continue to occupy the convent.
Whichever party is ultimately deemed the rightful seller, the sisters would keep the bulk of the proceeds — $10 million — to pay for their care and other charitable endeavors during their lifetimes. The other part of the sale — $4.5 million if the purchaser is Perry, $5.5 million if Hollister's deal holds — would go to relocating the House of Prayer to a location in Eagle Rock east of Los Angeles. When the sisters die, the money reverts to the archdiocese.