What Is The Most Expensive Home In The World?
Looking For The Most Expensive Home in The World?
Although the real estate prices in the United States have seen tremendous increases in real estate markets across the country, and some, such as the Boston real estate market, have been considered overpriced, the US doesn’t even come close to the most expensive home in the world.
Where Is The Most Expensive Home?
In December 2015, the Chateau Louis XIV in Louveciennes, France sold for over $300 million. A Fortune magazine cover story dubbed it “the most expensive home in the world” and, Town & Country Magazine lauded over it’s marble statues, gold-leafed fountain and the hedged labyrinth that highlight the 57-acre landscaped park. The chateau’s architect is remodeling the manor house and several buildings on the estate and, according to permit records at the local town hall, they are building new structures as well for what appears to be a hunting compound.
Emad Khashoggi, nephew of the late billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, and the chateau’s developer decided against refurbishing the existing 19th-century castle in Louveciennes, and instead, bulldozed it to make way for the new chateau. The results are impressive and though it appears to the naked eye to have been built in the time of Versailles, the royal palace that set a world standard for gaudy luxury, within the 17th-century design is 21st-century technology that allows one to remotely controls the fountains, sound system, lights and whisper-silent air conditioning by iPhone.
The Chateau Louis XIV offers all the standard flourishes for top-of-the-line properties, including the wine cellar and a movie theater. It even has its own nightclub. The rotunda is exquisitely designed with a detailed fresco on the ceiling and the moat has a transparent chamber where sturgeon and koi swim overhead.
The Unknown Buyer of The Most Expensive Home
When the story of the sale was first reported in 2015, the identity of the buyer was unknown. The only information that was reported at the time was that it had been sold to a Middle Eastern buyer and Christie’s International Real Estate had handled the transaction. The sale of the chateau made the news because the transaction had crushed the previous sale record for private home sales that was set in 2011 when a penthouse in London sold for $221 million.
Not surprisingly it didn’t take long for curious reporters chasing the paper trail to find the anonymous buyer. That trail finally lead them to none other than, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heir to the Saudi throne. In recent years, the Crown Prince has gained popularity with the people and is known as a driving force at the center of a series of bold policies that are transforming Saudi Arabia and challenging traditional policies in the Middle East.
Other Extravagant Purchases
This is not the only extravagant acquisition that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has purchased. The Chateau is only one of several high dollar transactions made by the prince that include a $500 million yacht and a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting. What could be damaging for the prince is that, while he is making these extravagant purchases around the world, he is also leading a wide reaching crackdown on the country’s current level of corruption and self-enrichment by the Saudi elite and is preaching fiscal austerity at home.
In his book published in November 2017, Kings and Presidents, Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR, former C.I.A. analyst, Bruce O. Riedel acknowledges that the prince has had a fair amount of success building an image that portrays him as different, a reformer, at least a social reformer, and that he is not a part of the current corruption in his country, however, Mr. Riedel also strongly believes that the revelation of these extravagant purchases has the potential to severely damage that image.
Hidden Beneath the Levels: Eight Investment
The ownership of the Chateau Louis XIV was carefully obscured by several levels of shell companies located in France and Luxembourg. However, the investigation by the New York Times reporters revealed that all of the companies were owned by the same company which turned out to be Eight Investment, a Saudi firm managed by the head of Crown Prince Mohammed’s personal foundation and advisers to members of the royal family state that the Chateau Louis XIV ultimately belongs to Prince Mohammed.
Eight Investment funded Prince Mohammed’s impulse buy in 2015 of a 440-foot yacht from a Russian vodka tycoon and also bought a 620-acre estate in Condé-sur-Vesgre, known as Le Rouvray, outside of Paris for the prince.
Crown Prince Mohammed
Crown Prince Mohammed has only been in the public eye for less than three years and yet, at the age of 32, he has successfully forged a reputation as an assertive, and some say reckless, leader. Although he was responsible for launching an air campaign in Yemen and spearheading the blockade of Qatar, he seems to have won the popular support of many of the country’s young Saudis with his reputation for reining in the country’s religious police, promising to give women the right to drive and announcing that movie theaters will be allowed to open again.
However, the Crown Prince’s sudden rise in popularity has not been shared by his elders, particularly after he forced aside his older cousin to claim the title of crown prince. His recent acts has caused him to come under even more scrutiny with the arrests of several of his royal cousins and hundreds of businessmen and officials, many who are currently being detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, which has been dubbed, “the world’s most luxurious jail.” The government is seeking to characterize the arrests as a much needed crackdown on corruption but avid critics of the arrests are calling it a political purge and a shakedown.
In an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, the Crown Prince said he is expecting for the state to recoup up to $100 billion in settlements from the detained elite and, dismissed as “ludicrous” all accusations suggesting that the arrests were politically motivated, and stating that the arrests were the only way to root out corruption and self-dealing in his country.
Is the Government Crackdown on Spending Working?
Unbridled spending by the king’s family, whose income sources remain opaque, has been raising eyebrows for some time now. Moreso now, with the price of oil, the main source of the country’s wealth, having plummeted from record highs in the past decade, the government has tried to crackdown on unnecessary spending and close yawning budget deficits with financial discipline.
However, at the same time that the government has canceled over a quarter of a trillion dollars’ worth of projects in order to rein in the country’s deficits, King Salman was building a luxurious new vacation palace on the Moroccan coast. Even earlier in his spending and shortly after he was named deputy crown prince, Prince Mohammed while vacationing in the south of France, decided on a whim to purchase an expensive yacht with two swimming pools and a helicopter pad with the helicopter.
Deep levels Hide Excessive Spending habits of the Prince
Records that were leaked from a Bermuda law firm, now known as the Paradise Papers, reveal how an army of lawyers, bankers and accountants from Germany, Bermuda and the Isle of Man all worked quickly after to the sale to transfer the ownership to Eight Investment. The price, according to drafts of the contract, was 420 million euros, or $494 million in today’s dollars and they paid even more than that for the chateau.
Emails that had been passed between the lawyers handling the sale stated that the yacht would be owned by a company called Pegasus VIII located in the Cayman Islands. The company was created in 2014 when Prince Mohammed reportedly bought another yacht, and renamed it the Pegasus VIII. That yacht cost somewhere around $60 million, according to seller, Ronald Tutor, a California investor.
Last month, “Salvator Mundi” a painting by Leonardo da Vinci sold for just over $450 million to an anonymous buyer, the highest price ever paid for a work of art sold at auction. The New York Times reported that is was bought by an obscure Saudi prince who had close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed and, people who were familiar with the sale as well as American intelligence officials confirmed that he was acting on behalf of the crown prince.
The Saudi government later disputed the report, and stated that the Saudi buyer was acting as an agent for Abu Dhabi, of the United Arab Emirates, and that the painting will hang at the new branch of the Louvre. Another government generated story was that the crown prince purchased the painting to give to Abu Dhabi. However, those familiar with the details still insist that the crown prince was the real buyer.
Top 10 Most Expensive Homes
Old Habits of Excess Continue to New Generation of Saudi Leaders
The buying habits of Saudi princes have been chronicled for decades. The Paradise Papers and the Panama Papers have leaked records that were obtained by the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, who then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other news organizations that provide new details and they found that the Crown Prince Mohammed’s known wealth represents only a portion of the riches that have been accumulated by King Salman’s branch of the House of Saud.
Two stately homes in London connected to King Salman list his son, Prince Turki bin Salman, as the guarantor of an Isle of Man company who, in 2014, sold a penthouse apartment close to Westminster Abbey for over $35 million. The first Arab to go to space, Prince Sultan bin Salman, is also a half brother of the crown prince. He purchased a luxury Boeing jet that typically costs more than $100 million through an offshore shell company.
King Salman also has a vast compound on Spain’s southern coast that is purportedly owned by two Panamanian companies, which in turn are controlled by a Luxembourg company that belong to the king and his heirs. Another holding company, in the tiny principality of Liechtenstein, owns a villa on the French Riviera, where the actress Rita Hayworth celebrated her marriage in 1949.
The two new French properties, Chateau Louis XIV and Le Rouvray, are owned by French companies who are owned by the Luxembourg company, Prestigestate SARL, which is in turn is owned by Eight Investment. Thamer Nassief, President of Crown Prince Private Affairs, is a manager of both Prestigestate and Eight Investment.
According to documents from the Bermudian law firm Appleby, Eight Investment is owned by members of the Saudi Royal Family, and its wealth is derived from the King and the state.
The documents list three shareholder: Bader Al Asaker, who heads the crown prince’s personal foundation; Hazim Mustafa Zagzoog, the head of private affairs for King Salman; and Bader Ali al-Kohail, the Saudi ambassador to the Maldives, the Indian Ocean archipelago where the Prince Mohammed reportedly hosted lavish parties that featured rapper Pitbull and the South Korean singer Psy.
Final Comments on the Chateau Louis XIV
Chateau Louis XIV is only one of the many castles that were built in Louveciennes, including the one that belonged to Madame du Barry, the chief mistress of Louis XV. The town was very popular and drew Impressionist painters from around the world to live there. The town is now an affluent suburb of Paris.
Some of the most lavish work on the Chateau Louis XIV, including the gilding, was completed by Atelier Mériguet-Carrère, who also restored the Élysée Palace and the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris. Antoine Courtois,who heads the company, said he could not comment on the work because he had signed a nondisclosure agreement.
According to public records, Hans Cauchi, a Maltese hospitality executive who caters to the very rich, applied for building permits in order to reconstruct the stables, which were in ruin at the edge of the estate, into a villa with a man-made pond. The permit was also to construct a new guardhouse modeled on a rustic property built for Marie Antoinette at Versailles.