Two and a half years after being sold for £205 million, the UK's most expensive home is up for sale again on an off-the-market basis, with Middle Eastern families and US investors among the interested parties.
The seven-storey, 45-room property at 2-8a Rutland Gate, in the heart of Knightsbridge, was the London residence of Lebanese billionaire and former prime minister Rafik Hariri. When he died in 2005, his family bequeathed the “private palace” to Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia at the time.
Prince Sultan died in 2011 and his family put the uninhabited property up for sale in 2019 through London agents Beauchamp Estates, which proclaimed Chinese billionaire and property mogul Cheung Chung-kiu the buyer for a UK record £205m.
Mr Cheung is the founder and chairman of Hong Kong CC Land Holdings, which numbers central London's “Cheesegrater” office block among its assets.
In July, it was reported Mr Cheung had been granted planning permission to build a huge private palace on the Rutland Gate site. The planned palace was expected to be worth up to £500m upon completion.
However, three months is a long time in property development. New information came to light last Friday on the ownership structure of the mansion courtesy of the Financial Times, which reported that the ultimate owner of 2-8a Rutland Gate was actually Evergrande founder Hui Ka Yan.
The Chinese property developer is in the midst of a crisis after Evergrande's $300 billion loan default and plunging property prices. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires' Index, Hui's net worth has plunged by 83 per cent since July 2020 as a result.
To staunch the flow, he has been selling his assets — and a £205m London private palace certainly fits this category.
2-8a Rutland Gate: the details
It is understood from sources close to the sale that Beauchamp Estates has once again been instructed to market and sell the mega-mansion via off-market promotion.
Overlooking Hyde Park, 2-8a Rutland Gate is a large white stucco palace that provides 5,760 square metres of living space over seven floors. Originally built in the 1830s as a terrace of four townhouses, the Cubitt terrace was remodelled into a single Italianate private palace from 1985 to 1987, designed by architects YRM.
Arranged over lower ground, raised ground and five upper floors, the 20-bedroom mega-mansion has 45 rooms, including grand state rooms, with interiors by French designer Alberto Pinto, several passenger lifts, a swimming pool, a private health spa and gymnasium, complete with underground parking.
Fronting on to Kensington Road, the property overlooks Hyde Park and is on the northern edge of Rutland Gate.
2-8a Rutland Gate: the rebuild
The plans to raze and rebuild the property, which has fallen into a degree of disrepair since the death of Prince Sultan, were permitted by Westminster council on the basis it is a single dwelling.
The Rutland Gate project even has its own website, which lists the planning permissions:
- Repair, partial demolition and alteration to parts of the existing building’s facade
- Improvements and reorganisation of the internal layouts necessitating replacement of some of the internal floor slabs
- Demolition and remodelling of the existing fourth and fifth floor levels, with the introduction of a replacement mansard and 3.3-metre increase in building height
- Minor basement excavation at level two to extend the existing floor level to accommodate plant
Hariri's Knightsbridge portfolio
Rutland Gate wasn't the Hariri family's only property concern in Knightsbridge.
They also owned a five-bedroom house, a stone's throw from Harrods, that was sold in June for £19.75m.
Built in 1889, the luxurious 604-square-metre property in Cadogan Gardens had been owned by the Hariri family since 2014.
As with Rutland Gate, the mansion is one of a handful of surviving full houses in Knightsbridge, making it a sought-after commodity.
Due to its corner position, it is flooded with natural light and the rooms have a bright, airy ambience, overlooking and providing direct access to the large landscaped communal gardens.