| Cyrus and Priya
London, Aug. 12: A wealthy Indian socialite couple, Cyrus and Priya Vandrevala, are to host a party at Buckingham Palace to celebrate Prince Charles’s 65th birthday.
Buckingham Palace would only say: “It’s a private event.”
It is the sort of occasion where Calcutta boy Badar Azim would have dressed up in his Footman’s livery and served the champagne and the samosa — except he is not here, having left the employment of the palace when his two-year visa ran out.
Charles was born in Buckingham Palace — his birthday is easy for Indians to remember since it is the same as Nehru’s: November 14.
Charles was born at 9.14pm on November 14, 1948 (Nehru was born on the same day in Allahabad in 1889).
Today’s Daily Mail gossip column is more forthcoming about the bash for Charles. “The concert is being funded by billionaire ‘Bollygarchs’ and philanthropists Cyrus and Priya Vandrevala, who are thought to be spending ‘several hundred thousand pounds’,” it says.
“Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have grown to like the Indian-born couple in recent months,” it adds. “The Vandrevalas are close to Prince Andrew and are patrons of the Elephant Family, the charity run by Camilla’s brother Mark Shand. They have been to tea at Highgrove and have met the Prince on several occasions.”
The black tie event won’t be held until November 21, though. “Around 250 guests are being invited.... Prince Charles plans to celebrate his 65th birthday with a lavish party with champagne, music and the company of friends.”
Music will be provided by the Philharmonia Orchestra, of which he is patron. “Indeed, he has even chosen the music — an evening of Wagner.”
A source close to Cyrus told The Telegraph: “Yes, he has told me about the party.”
Wishing not to appear over eager the source said: “I will go if I am in London.”
To be fair to Prince Charles, this is not the first time he has been “at home” to Indians. He has a country home, Highgrove in Gloucestershire, where the sarod player Ustad Amjad Ali Khan has been a guest.
Charles also keeps in touch with Indians who raise money for his charities through the British Asian Trust — Mukesh Ambani has been roped in to be the trust’s main man in India.
It will be India which will basically decide if Charles succeeds the Queen as head of the Commonwealth. But he genuinely does like the company of Indians.
But who are the Vandrevalas?
Priya often makes it a point to look pretty in yellow.
Cyrus is described as “an Indian private equity investor and philanthropist who started investing in technology businesses in his 20s and now has global investments in a multiple of public and private companies ranging from telecom, infrastructure, energy, real estate, food and cement.
One newspaper assessed his wealth at $9bn but this is probably a wild guess.
The Vandrevalas’ relationship with Charles is probably more harmonious than with some of their own kith and kin back in Mumbai.
Last year, The Times reported that Cherie Blair, “the QC and wife of the former British Prime Minister (Tony Blair) is to play peacemaker in a legal battle between Darshan Hiranandani, who is based in Mumbai, and his sister, Priya Vandrevala, who lives in London, over a £367million international property empire”.
“The family’s huge wealth, estimated by Forbes at nearly $1.3 billion (£820million), does not appear to have made them happy. Relations between the siblings broke down three years ago after Ms Vandrevala, 34, accused her father, Niranjan, and brother of collaborating to break a 2006 business agreement, which stipulated that they would only purchase and develop property in India on an exclusive basis with her.
“The profits from all of their projects were to be shared equally between the two branches of the family, based in India and Britain, where in 2006 the Hiranandanis launched a company on the London stock market — Hirco — to raise cash for an expansion of their international property ventures.”
The Times reported: “Ms Vandrevala, an accountant who is married to Cyrus Vandrevala — one of London’s top private equity chiefs — was appointed Hirco's chief executive.”
The glossy magazine Country Life has mentioned the couple in a roundup of the Indian rich in the UK.
“Cyrus has made his mark as a man of style in London having lived at Claridge’s for six months before buying a house in Holland Park with his heiress wife Priya Hiranandani-Vandrevala for £20m. He has achieved billionaire status while maintaining a discreet social presence. Look out for him in Annabel’s.”
Annabel’s is a Mayfair nightclub where visiting Indian cabinet ministers relax in the evening.