Friday, 30 March 2012

It’s all gone very pasty

“The cat” returns to frontline politics

This has been a humiliating week for all three of the main parties but the mammoth success of George Galloway in Bradford West last night is an especially worrying development for them.

“Laughing stock” George Galloway playing a cat with Rula Lenska, born Countess Roza-Marie Leopoldyna Lubinenska, on 13th January 2006 in Celebrity Big Brother

“Cash for Cameron,” the ignition of “petrol panic” and the “pasty tax” debacle have brought embarrassment to the coalition government, but the “Bradford Spring” that brings the apologist for Saddam Hussein back to the Houses of Parliament can only signal trouble.

Galloway, whom was thrown out of Labour party in 2003 before beating them in Bethnal Green & Bow in 2005, secured 55.9% of the vote and a 10,140 majority in Bradford West. Of his win, Galloway stated:

"By the grace of God, we have won the most sensational victory in British political history… Labour has been hit by a tidal wave in a seat they have held for many decades and dominated for 100 years. I have won a big victory in every part of the constituency, including in areas many people said I should not even compete."

George Galloway beat Labour’s Imran Hussain with a swing of 36.59%

That Galloway, a man who once pretended to be a cat licking milk from the palms of the pantomine actress Rula Lenska in the Celebrity Big Brother reality show, can see off mainstream politicians is especially illustrative of our lack of faith in them. Like the equally tedious former BBC journalist Martin Bell, who beat Neil Hamilton in Tatton as an independent candidate in 1997, before him, Galloway does, to his credit, fight for what he believes in. His election proves that he can connect with voters in a better way than the likes of Cameron, Clegg and Milliband and they should learn from this.

This result is hugely disappointing for Labour but the drop of 22.78% in support for the Conservatives is also telling. The party, since the replacement of Steve Hilton with Craig Oliver as their director of communications, has gone into a public relations meltdown.

With the likes of Francis Maude making foolish remarks about jerry cans and Cornish pasties and David Cameron himself becoming embroiled in “horsegate,” the party has lost it’s focus and become increasingly Titanic-like in how it appears in the media. To get the ship back on course, I’d suggest it might be best if Craig Oliver were forced off the bridge.

The Right Honourable Harriet Harman QC MP

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programe this morning, Harriet Harman, the Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, excused her party’s loss as a:

“Very disappointing result… There is a particular issue in Bradford… We cannot jump to any swift conclusions… We need a proper inquiry into it… The bandwagon took over and we lost the votes. We didn’t neglect a northern constituency.”

Ms Harman, however, failed to answer the inexcusable failure of her boss, Ed Milliband, to profit electorally from what must be one of the worst weeks in office in this parliament for the Conservative Party. It seems, like Neil Kinnock before him, Milliband just cannot get a grip of running an effective opposition.

Sayeeda Warsi, The Right Honourable Baroness Warsi PC, Minister without Portfolio and co-Chairman of the Conservative Party

On the same programme the Conservative’s Baroness Warsi seized upon this when she commented:

“If Ed Milliband, can’t get his act together now, when will he?”

Though I, like many, find the current Con-Lib coalition utterly abhorrent, I have to admit that she has a point.

To view George Galloway’s Bradford West campaign website, go to: http://www.votegeorgegalloway.com

Follow George Galloway on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/georgegalloway

Monday, 26 March 2012

A Right titan


A review of W.L. “Lyons” Brown III’s Right Gin

Entrepreneur W.L. Lyons Brown III is a member of a family considered titans in the drinks industry.

Brown-Forman, the family business, was founded by George Garvin Brown in 1870 and is now one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies. Employing 4,120 people worldwide, Brown-Forman own brands that include Jack Daniel’s, Finlandia Vodka, Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Southern Comfort and still today the family themselves retain more than 70% of the company’s voting shares.

W.L. Lyons Brown III

W.L. “Lyons” Brown III is a graduate of the University of Virgina and received an MBA from Darden in 1987. Married with three children and a resident of Laguna Beach, California, he founded Altamar Brands, LLC in 2005 to launch a premium tequila named Corralejo. The brand was sold in 2007 at a profit of $10 million and these funds provided the ability to launch three further brands: Right Gin, Tequila Ocho and Kubler Absinthe.

Five times distilled Right Gin, which is priced at $40 a bottle in the United States, is a gin with a difference. Made using North American corn that is described as “faintly sweet” and water from Lake Bolmen, near Malmo in Sweden, here is a 40% ABV gin that combines eight distinctive and carefully chosen botanicals. The strategy here was to create a “modern classic” gin with a less oily aftertaste that “wouldn’t dominate any cocktail” and what I especially like are the peppery notes of it.

Right Gin

The Right Gin bottle is distinctive and classy. As the tycoon who created SKYY vodka taught me, all good bottle designs must stand out on the back-bar and this does just such. With a juxtaposition of an ancient crest and contemporary fonts and labeling both heritage and modernity are conveyed.

Right Gin initially launched in Las Vegas and now the focus has moved on to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and most recently Miami. Success in these cities is key to the success of any spirits brand and Altamar Brands have proved just such there. A brief foray into the UK in 2008 – 2009 perhaps came a little to early as it coincided with the economic downturn, but in the US the brand goes from strength to strength.

Right Gin’s motto is: “There is a right way” and plainly in view of the success W.L. “Lyons” Brown and his family have had with previous brands, this is a gin that will deservedly make progress here in the UK on it’s much anticipated return.

For more information on Right Gin, go to: http://www.rightgin.com

For more information on Altamar Brands LLC, go to: http://www.altamarbrands.com

Right Gin can be purchased in the UK through Anybooze.com for £32.95 a bottle: http://www.anybooze.com/right-gin-647-p.asp

Follow Right Gin on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/RIGHTgin

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A truly Good Egg


Laid for Queen and Country

Those travelling around London in the last six weeks will have seen many of the 210 giant egg sculptures placed throughout the city and no doubt wondered what they were all about.

On display for the 40 days and nights of Lent, two charities, the Elephant Family and Action for Children, united to raise funds in a project named The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt. The organisers charged entrants a small fee to join a hunt that involved finding a keyword on each egg and texting it as an entry. The prize offered to the eventual winner is a Fabergé egg decorated with 60 gemstones, one for each year of the Queen’s reign, worth £100,000.

Basia Briggs pictured with her very own ‘Union Jack’ egg by the entrance to the Saatchi Gallery on the Duke of York Square, SW3

On Tuesday, a party was held to celebrate the project at The Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand where 30 of the eggs were sold. My good friends Richard and Basia Briggs purchased the first lot in the auction, the ‘Union Jack’ egg, for £7,000. The work was the creation of Mark Shand, founder of the Elephant Family and one of the main organisers of The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt.

Basia Briggs in a recent photo shoot

Of the purchase, Basia Briggs, who with her husband owns the Hyde Park Stables, commented:

“We are very proud to become the new owners of the egg in such an important year for The Queen, and for London when it hosts the Olympics later this year. This egg indeed represents all that is Great in Great Britain and we shall treasure it.”

Miniatures of the ‘Union Jack’ egg are also available to purchase as limited editions at £350 each

Other eggs include designs by Candy & Candy, Marc Quinn, Sabine Roemer, Linley, Zandra Rhodes, Theo Fennell, Patrick Mavros, Tommy Hilfiger and Sir Ridley Scott and bids for the remaining ones can be placed online.

From the 5th to 9th April all 210 eggs will be on display together in the Covent Garden Piazza. All proceeds go to the Elephant Family and Action for Children charities.

For more information or to bid in The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt, go to: http://www.thebigegghunt.co.uk. For more information, contact: info@thebigegghunt.co.uk 

Flash Gordon

The sale of Gordon House at The Royal Hospital for £75,000,000

Yesterday I was told of a truly spectacular property that has come to the market in Chelsea.

Gordon House, Tite Street, Chelsea, London, SW3 4SR

An early 19th century three-storey property built between 1809 and 1868, Gordon House is effectively a country house in the heart of the city. This Grade II and part II* listed building, which also includes buildings named the Orangery and Creek Lodge, forms part of The Royal Hospital site and is currently used as sleeping accommodation for retired soldiers.


Drawings of the proposed scheme for Gordon House

Planning permission has been granted by The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea to return the 10,000 square foot building, originally the home of one Colonel Gordon, to a single family home with ancillary accommodation. The inevitable large basement, so popular with today’s buyers, including a cinema, swimming pool, gym, underground parking, maintenance garage and car lift are indeed unsurprising on the list of alterations that have also been approved. The proposed re-landscaping of the grounds, which extend to some 2 acres, would include two ponds and a new access driveway.

Chelsea Pensioners at The Royal Hospital: founded in 1682 by King Charles II to “provide soldiers with a fitting home in their retirement”

Money raised from the sale of the lease for Gordon House will be used by the Royal Hospital to refurbish other buildings on their 20 hectare site.

Gordon House is currently being marketed at a price of £75,000,000 through Savills and certainly must be one of the finest residential development opportunities available in Central London in many years. Once complete, this’ll certainly be one of London’s flashest homes.

For more information on Gordon House, contact Savills on +44 (0) 20 7499 8664. Website: http://www.savills.com

For more information on the plans for Gordon House, go to the website of Paul Davis & Partners Architects and Urban Designers: http://www.pauldavisandpartners.com/projects/residential/gordon-house

For more information on The Royal Hospital and the Chelsea Pensioners, go to: http://www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk


Friday, 23 March 2012

No Thank Goodnesses for Goodman


The conviction of billionaire John Goodman

I have followed the trial of John Goodman with great interest in recent days and today’s verdict was not surprising given his lack of recollection of the tragedy that he caused.

John Goodman with his lawyers: Mark Shaprio, Guy Fronstin and Roy Black

On the 12th February 2010, Goodman, who sold his family business, Goodman Manufacturing, for $1.43 billion in 2004, crashed his Bentley Continental GTC at speed into a Hyundai Sonata driven by a 23-year old engineering graduate named Scott Wilson at a stop sign at Lake Worth Road and 120th Avenue in Wellington, Florida. Wilson’s car was catapulted into a canal and he subsequently drowned.

A reconstruction of how John Goodman’s 2007 Bentley Continental GTC hit Scott Wilson’s Hyundai Sonata

Goodman, who also founded the International Polo Club Palm Beach and was a protégé of the $7 billion Ponzi-schemer Sir Allan Stanford, claimed: “I don’t know what happened,” whilst on the stand this week before adding that the car suddenly lurched forward at the intersection. He continued: “I began to apply my brakes, and the car did not seem to be stopping as easily as I was used to.”

The Players Club: owned by Wall Street financier and Bridgehampton Polo principal Neil Hirsch. The club recently settled a wrongful death civil lawsuit with the Scott Wilson’s family for an undisclosed amount that is thought to be in the region of $6 million.

Goodman, who stated that he drank two shots of tequila and two shots of vodka at The Players Club prior to the accident, then fled the scene leaving Wilson to drown belted in the driver seat of his vehicle. In court he argued that he did not know he’d hit another driver and headed to the “man cave” of a nearby barn where he downed yet more booze to “alleviate [his] pain.”

Next, Goodman went to a trailer park and woke a woman named Lisa Pembleton. Here, an hour after the accident, he called first his girlfriend-daughter Heather Laruso Hutchins (also known as Heather Colby), an assistant and then finally 911 at 1.55am at the instructions of Pembleton.

John Goodman’s $272 Players Club Bar bill for 10 Espolon Silver 10 singles, 1 Patron Silver single, 1 JW Red single, 1 Grey Goose single and 5 Patron Silver 5 singles, opened at 11:23pm on the 11th February 2010 and closed at 12:52am on  the 12th February 2010

In defence, Roy Black, Goodman’s attorney, blamed the accident on a fault with his “out-of-control runaway monster” Bentley. Bentley’s spokesperson, Valentine O’Connor, said in response:

"We have complete confidence in our vehicles, and are prepared to demonstrate such confidence when appropriate.

If indeed a fault were with the car, it would be the first Bentley in the United States to have experienced a “throttle-brake-computer” failure and plainly the jury didn’t believe such.

Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras

The trial attracted significant media interest not only because of Goodman’s wealth and status but also because of the witnesses called. Amongst them was the “David Beckham of polo,” Ignacio Figueras, who had been paid $120,000 to play on Goodman’s polo team. Figueras testified that he had not seen Goodman “impaired” that night when he had worked as a “celebrity bartender” at the White Horse Tavern but as he’d left the party early, his evidence plainly didn’t count for much.

The key argument against Goodman came from Prosecutor Sherri Collins who argued that Goodman could have saved Wilson’s life had he not walked away:

"He called his friend, and she had to talk him into calling 911... That is absolutely failure to render aid, that is absolutely failure to give information, that is absolutely not informing the authorities.... If the defendant had rendered aid, Scott Wilson would have lived."

Scott Wilson

Today John Goodman was convicted of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. Sentencing has been set for 30th April and it is expected that he could get up to 30 years in jail.

Of the verdict, State Attorney Peter Antonnacci commented:

"Scott Wilson was a young man with a bright future and his life was tragically cut short. I hope that Scott's family now experiences some closure so that the healing process can go forward in this particularly tragic event.”

Lily Wilson, the mother of the victim, added:

"I know that it took a lot for them to come up with a conclusion and justice has been served… I’m always gonna miss my son... I will always cherish his memories. And now, coming from me and the rest of the family and his friends, it's time for the healing process to begin."

Goodman’s hacienda at 3665 120th Avenue, Wellington, Florida, FL 33414, a property leased from a trust that benefits his two children and 42-year old girlfriend Heather Laruso Hutchins (also known as Heather Colby). Goodman recently adopted Ms Hutchins as his daughter so that she could also benefit from the trust.

This case is indeed a tragedy for all involved. Scott Wilson lost his life because John Goodman did not attempt to save him but equally a man whom many describe as “generous” and “decent” is heading to the clink. Today was not a day when the Goodman family could say: “Thank goodness for Goodman.”

For more information on the International Polo Club Palm Beach, 3667 120th Avenue South, Wellington, Florida, FL 33414, go to: http://www.internationalpoloclub.com

For more information on The Players Club Restaurant, 13140 Southshore Blvd, Wellington, Florida, FL 33414, go to: http://playersclubrestaurant.com

Visually brilliant


A review of 5 Pollen Street

5 Pollen Street is an Italian restaurant where fine dining unites with fine art. Hidden in a side street off Hanover Square, this 60-cover restaurant is dominated by artwork by Royal Academician Gary Hume, a leading member of the Young British Artist (YBA) movement.

5 Pollen Street

Diego Bivero Volpe, a former RBS banker, is one of the brains behind the restaurant and with Massimo Tagliaferri, previously of The Grosvenor House, The Dorchester, Harry’s Bar, Gordon Ramsay at Claridges and Enoteca Turi, as head chef, the result is a sophisticated restaurant with a superbly balanced menu.

Diego Bivero Volpe

Ably managed by Francesca de Lorenzo, 5 Pollen Street’s ambience is formal yet buzzy. Hume’s artwork and graphic wallpapers sit well alongside wooden floors, comfortable banquette seating and large mirrors and the result is a room that is most pleasant to dine in.

The clientele, as a result of Bivero Volpe’s connections, centre upon fashionistas and the party set. A Google search on 5 Pollen Street brings up the names Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gemma Arterton and Lana Del Rey as having dined there.

Massimo Tagliaferri

To begin, I opted for a colourful beetroot and ricotta ravioli with butter and poppy seeds (£12.50). Beetroot is indeed the vegetable of the moment and this particular dish, I must say, was superb. My companion’s choice of burrata of Putignano with Sicilian caponata (£9.50) was, he said, deliciously soft.

As a main I chose roasted breast of duck with covolo nero and peverada sauce (£23). The delicious chicken liver based sauce complemented the tender meat well and the accompanying roast potatoes (£4) were equally good. A pan-fried fillet of lemon sole with a fennel puree, mussels and tomato confit (£22.50) was the choice of my guest. He thoroughly enjoyed the mix of flavours.

To conclude we opted for a tiramisu (£6.50) and a Torrone semifreddo with a chocolate sauce (£7). Both were triumphant and perfect choices to end a truly excellent meal.

Like most Mayfair restaurants, wines err on the expensive side but the £25 a bottle Italian house white was crisp and enjoyable. A few more mid range offerings, however, certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

Follow Lana’s lead and make a beeline for 5 Pollen Street. You won’t be disappointed.

5 Pollen Street, London, W1S 1NE. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7629 1555. Website: http://www.5pollenst.com

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Country craziness


The somewhat limited multi-million country property market

This morning’s “Richard Kay” column in the Daily Mail provides further illustration of the craziness of the British property market in a report on the sale of The Crichel Estate in Dorset.

Crichel House, Moor Crichel, Dorset and St Mary's Church

Priced at £150,000,000, a figure that if achieved would be Britain’s most expensive sale, Crichel includes 5,000 acres of land, four villages, a cricket club, a church, a magnificent mansion and 100 tied workers.

Mary Anna Marten OBE (1929 – 2010) with her husband Lieutenant-Commander Toby Marten. Marten was best known for her successful fight with Churchill’s government to return land nationalised during the Second World War.

The estate is currently owned by the children of Mary Anna Marten, who died in 2010, and it is suggested that the reason it has failed is because they included so many stipulations. Unlike other sellers who openly seek out the likes of Roman Abramovich and his adversary Boris Berezovsky, the Martens will not sell to oligarchs and are also said to have also shunned advertising. An offer of £113,000,000 was rejected and after two years on the market, this stunning property appears to be one giant white elephant.

Solaris, Banks Road, Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset

A search on Primelocation.com unsurprisingly reveals no details for Crichel but the most expensive property in Dorset is a £9,750,000 beachfront house at Sandbanks named Solaris. For sale through the Tailor Made Estate Agency, Solaris includes 5 bedrooms and an indoor leisure complex.

Eclipse, Exbury, Southampton, Hampshire

At £12,000,000, Knight Frank offer a similarly modern property named Eclipse close to Southampton. Set in 26 acres and boasting extensive frontage to the River Beaulieu, this vast 5 bedroom property features an indoor swimming pool, a cinema and media room, a 40 metre hard jetty, a 3 bedroom lodge and a helicopter hangar. The price plainly has been off putting however: Eclipse has been on the market since September 2010.

Eclipse’s waterfront setting on the Beaulieu River

For those seeking something more akin to The Crichel Estate, Carter Jonas offer the 800 acre Askham Richard estate near York at a price of £6,500,000. Though lacking a true main house, this property produces a gross rental income of some £155,000 per annum from Farm Business tenancies and 14 let residential properties. Currently “under offer,” Askham Richard has potential, say the agents, for “rental uplift” and “development opportunities.”

Parbold Hall, Parbold, Lancashire

In Lancashire, Savills is selling The Parbold Hall Estate on behalf of Sir Peter Moores, a member of the Littlewoods dynasty. Standing in 865 acres, this “traditional English landed estate” centres around a 9 bedroom country house overlooking the Douglas Valley. Moores is selling after 53 years as he wants to move “somewhere where I can walk to Tesco.” A guide price of £9,500,000 has been set.

The most expensive country house, and one of which I’ve written previously, on Primelocation.com currently though is the £13,500,000 The Manor House at Stoke Poges. In terms of publicly available estates, however, the highest priced is The Brecon Estate in Wales. With 1,593 acres, this vast farming estate includes 8 let farms with 8 houses, 6 further cottages and what the agents describe as “first rate shooting.”

The vast Brecon Estate

Billionaires and oligarchs seeking country properties in Britain plainly, it seems, face not only hurdles placed by protective sellers but also a lack of availability. Unlike the London market where there are many properties priced at over £15,000,000, finding a true gem in the country plainly is much harder.


For more information on Solaris, contact Tailor Made on +44 (0) 1202 706606 or email enquiries@tmea.biz. More details can be viewed at: http://www.dezrez.com/Drapp/Search.ASP?WCI=PortalBrochure&WCE=002036194&Template=PortalBrochure&eaid=1132

For more information on Eclipse, contact James Crawford of Knight Frank on +44 (0) 20 7861 1065. For details, go to: http://search.knightfrank.com/CHO090280

For more information on The Askham Richard Estate, contact Carter Jonas on +44 (0) 1904 238229. More details can be viewed at: http://www.primelocation.com/uk-property-for-sale/details/id/CJYK999000117

For more information on The Parbold Hall estate, contact Savills on +44 (0) 1625 417450 or email mholden@savills.com. More details can be viewed at: http://www.primelocation.com/uk-property-for-sale/details/id/SABB_297831

For more information on The Brecon Estate, contact Anthony Mayell of Fisher German on +44 (0) 1905 453275 or email anthony.mayell@fishergerman.co.uk. More details can be viewed at: http://www.primelocation.com/uk-property-for-sale/details/id/WEWK8960959

Monday, 19 March 2012

Men love in haste, but they detest at leisure

A review of “The Leisure Society”

A good friend of mine, when he’s had one too many, gets into the habit of sending what he calls “termination of friendship letters.” I’ve only received such a document once but plenty of others have had them from him as well. As he reneges on them generally, they don’t really achieve much. French-Canadian author François Archambault’s play The Leisure Society is based on just such a situation and achieves just as little. It is, as The Daily Telegraph’s Charles Spencer rightly states, in fact nothing more than utterly “unappealing… dross.”

The cast of The Leisure Society: Melanie Gray, Agyness Deyn, John Schwab and Ed Stoppard

Though most other critics praise this one and a half hour play directed by Harry Burton as “highly enjoyable” and “well judged,” I have to say I found it shallow and beyond ludicrous. The story centres around a supposedly perfect couple named Peter (Ed Stoppard) and Mary (Melanie Gray) who invite their recently divorced friend Mark (John Scwab) round to dinner to tell him that their friendship is over. Mark appears with a young on-off lover played by Agyness Deyn and what occurs is a most excruciatingly nauseating series of events.

Talk of the Greek crisis confirmed that The Leisure Society was set in present times but the brash style of the four protagonists left me feeling as if I were in a setting more akin to yuppies living in a world somewhere between Gordon Gekko’s 1980s Wall Street and the 1990s excesses of Jeffrey Skilling and Enron.

Peter and Mary’s attempts to adopt a Chinese child “because they are kind of cute” and talk of fancy holidays don’t quite ring true but the gruesome sexual liaisons that become the fantasies and realities of this debauched group frankly made me want to vomit. Archambault supposedly wants to make the audience “feel smugly superior to the characters he depicts.” Instead, I just found myself wanting to escape them.

Each character reminded me of individuals who for various reasons are no longer, and with good reason, in my life. I didn’t send these people termination of friendship letters or invite them round to dinner and make a scene. I just let them fade into obscurity because I happened to realise that they were tedious. Rather than putting this drivel on the stage, the Trafalgar Studios should have just done the same.

Prince Philip once said: “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.” If The Leisure Society is anything to go by, I’d argue that this lot would be better to leave the stage and join the latter category.

The Leisure Society plays until 31st March 2012 at the Trafalgar Studios. For more information and tickets, go to: http://www.londontheatredirect.com/play/1047/The-Leisure-Society-tickets.aspx

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Why pay less?


London’s multi-million pound international property market

As I left the building where I live in Knightsbridge the other day I saw a somewhat ordinary looking Italian couple emerging from a neighbouring property where a flat is for sale. The estate agent enquired what the pair thought of the £4,000,000 maisonette they’d just viewed. Their response: “It’s just too cheap. Have you anything more expensive?”

Britain’s most expensive home: Hanover Lodge, 150 Park Road, London, NW8 7RP

The London property market, at the top end, is apparently booming. Yesterday’s Daily Mail included a piece by Rob Davis that described how estate agent Savills has over 50 houses on their books priced at more than £15,000,000 in London. The city, according to Rupert Sebag-Montefiore, chairman of Savills Residential UK, is:

“Detached [from the rest of the country]… It’s an international market and the higher you go up the price bracket, the more international it becomes.”

The Mails piece included a £22,500,000 18th century house in Richmond, a £32,500,000 freehold property in Chester Square in Belgravia and a £39,000,000 9-bedroom mansion in St John’s Wood but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Last month the lease on the Grade II* listed Hanover Lodge in Regent’s Park, owned by former Conservative peer Lord Bagri, was sold to an unnamed Ukranian who was represented by Luca Del Bono’s O Private Office. For £120,000,000, the buyer got a 26,000 square foot main house renovated by architects Quinlan & Francis Terry LLP and a 7,000 square foot lodge as well as permission to dig a large basement extension.

Jersey House, 62 The Bishops Avenue, Hampstead, N2

The most expensive property currently available on Primelocation.com is Jersey House on The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead, priced at £39,950,000. The favoured address of international despots and tycoons, The Bishops Avenue, also known as “Billionaire’s Row,” has variously been home to the likes of the Sultan of Brunei, actress and singer Dame Gracie Fields, steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, Turkish Cypriot businessman Asil Nadir, press magnate Richard Desmond and Nursultan Nazarbavey, president of Kazakhstan. Jersey House, for sale through Glentree Interntational, is a newly built “ambassadorial residence” with 8-bedroom suites. Standing in 1.2 acres of grounds and featuring a leather lined lift, a professional catering kitchen which can easily cope with the needs of 200 guests, a 10.5m mosaic lined swimming pool, a private massage/hair salon and garaging for 4 limousines, this is a house of epic proportions.

The £100,000,000 Heath Hall, 59 The Bishops Avenue, Hampstead, N2 redeveloped by The Ability Group

Also available on The Bishops Avenue is the £100,000,000, 40,000 square foot Grade II listed Heath Hall. Restored by entreprenuer Andreas Panayiotou’s The Ability Group, this 17-bedroom mansion includes garaging for 10 cars and a panic room.

Andreas Panayiotou, Group Chairman and CEO of The Ability Group

Panayiotou, whose fascinating career was profiled in an Evening Standard piece by David Cohen last June, is a self-made mogul who does not know how to read. His company has restored the property’s Edwardian gardens whilst adding state-of-the-art technology, such as that that de-ices the driveway, as well as a vast leisure suite.

A terrace at the £32,000,000 Imperial Wharf, SW6 penthouse

Even in Fulham property listings have joined the super league with the sale of an apartment in Lensbury Avenue, Imperial Wharf, SW6. Available through Foxtons is a 12,359 square foot penthouse over three floors priced at an extraordinary £32,000,000. A merger of a number of flats, this 8-bedroom property includes various terraces and 6 underground parking spaces. Somehow I could not imagine a property in this location being worth such a price, but it will indeed be interesting to see the eventual figure it achieves.

The sitting room of the 2,890 square foot 2 bedroomed £18,500,000 apartment D.03.2 at One Hyde Park

A buyer seeking something smaller in a more central location can purchase a 2/3 bedroom apartment in One Hyde Park for £18,500,000 and count Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar, Rinat Akhmetov, a Ukranian business oligarch, and supposedly, according to Wikipedia, even pop singer Kylie Minogue as neighbours. It’s hardly a bargain at £6,400 per square foot and though stylishly designed by Dutch interior architect Rients Bruinsma, this flat has a view of the busy A4 and A315 roads rather than of the park. At £41,101 for the fiscal year 2012, the service charge isn’t exactly cheap either but for that one gets access to amongst other things a 69ft swimming pool, squash court and a private screening room with 18 electronically operated reclinable seats.

The entrance to One Hyde Park

I met with an agent friend last week who was one of the few who spoke to the contrary regarding the sale of these multi-million pound homes. He said many are overpriced and fester on the market for many months before being sold at substantially lower prices. He cited an example in Queens Gate where a £5,500,000 apartment eventually sold for £4,500,000 many months later.

Similarly, outside London, Updown Court, priced by developer Leslie Allen-Vercoe at £75,000,000, only achieved £35,000,000 in a recent bank forced sale after 6 years on the market. Standing in 58 acres and featuring 103 rooms and 5 swimming pools, Allen-Vercoe, who recently appeared at Southwark Crown Court in a separate case, stated in one interview:

“If Elton John were a house, he’d be Updown Court.”

The 50,000 square foot Updown Court at Windlesham

Whilst prices for property across the UK, according to Knight Frank and Markit’s House Price Sentiment Index, will fall for the 21st consecutive month, the elite buying £15,000,000 plus properties continue to have plenty to choose from.

To these Russians, Ukrainians and Chinese, though, the mantra is indeed: “Why pay less when you can pay more?”

For more details on the O Private Office, go to: http://www.oprivateoffice.com

For more information on Apartment D.03.2 at One Hyde Park, The Residences at The Mandarin Oriental, 100 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LJ contact Strutt & Parker on +44 (0) 20 7235 9959: http://www.primelocation.com/uk-property-for-sale/details/id/SPSS_SLN110017. More information on One Hyde Park can be seen at: http://www.onehydepark.com


For more information on Jersey House, 62 The Bishops Avenue, Hampstead, N2 0BE, contact Jeremy Gee of Glentree International on +44 (0) 20 8458 7311 or email: jeremy@glentree.co.uk. Further details can be viewed at http://www.glentree.co.uk/property_jersey-house-the-bishops-avenue-n2_487.html and http://www.123xyz.co.uk

For more information on Heath House, 59 The Bishops Avenue, Hampstead, London, N2 0BG, contact The Ability Group on +44 (0) 20 7580 1234 or email: info@theabilitygroup.com. Details of the property and images can be viewed at: http://test-web.ameris.co.uk/developments/heath-hall,-the-bishops-avenue.html

For details of the penthouse in Leinsbury Avenue, Fulham, SW6, contact Foxtons on +44 (0) 20 7565 4000. Full details can be viewed at: http://www.foxtons.co.uk/property-for-sale-in-imperial-wharf/chpk3659350

For more details on Updown Court, Chertsey Road, Windlesham, Surrey, GU20 6HY, go to: http://www.updowncourt.com