| Top Dog: Mittal
London, April 11: Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian steel tycoon who was outbid when he tried to purchase a £41-million house in London last month, has now shown who is top dog by buying a £70-million mansion, said to be a world record.
Mittal is said to have exchanged contracts — the binding stage before completion — on 18/19 Kensington Palace Gardens, “one of the most prestigious properties in Europe”.
The 12-bedroom mansion is 55 times bigger than the average house and has garage space for 20 cars.
The revelation was made by The Sunday Times which appears to follow Mittal’s fortunes closely. The paper last month ran a story that with a fortune estimated at £3.5 billion, Mittal was the richest Asian in Britain. There was nothing new in that, since Mittal and the Hindujas have played tweedledee and tweedledum at the top of the Asian rich list ever since the steel tycoon arrived in London in 1995.
Talk of Mittal’s residential requirements — he already owns a mansion, The Summer Palace, in The Bishop’s Avenue in north London — has apparently been common gossip among London’s Asian richeratti. His purchase was widely seen today as more an example of Indian vulgarity than entrepreneurship.
A wealthy Indian businessman in London said today: “Yes, it’s true he is buying a house. He has also bought a new aircraft, Gulfstream. He has also got a yacht. Why has he bought a — £70-million house' I guess he is flamboyant. He wants to show off.”
There is some concern that Mittal has not gone out of his way to demonstrate he has actually done something for Britain, his country of adoption. Referring to Mittal’s status as a foreign businessman who was based in the UK only to gain business advantage, the Indian businessman said: “I would like to know what he gives for charity. Unlike Mittal, I pay my taxes in Britain.”
Confronted with this charge, Mittal has said in the past that he employs accountants and many other services in Britain.
There is also the worry among Indians that conspicuous displays of wealth could inspire more jealousy than admiration. Mittal became the centre of controversy in 2001 when it was revealed that Prime Minister Tony Blair had written to the Romanian government, backing the tycoon’s bid to buy the country’s ailing steel plant. This was interpreted as a “thank you” to Mittal for the £125,000 donation he had made to the Labour Party. This row was dubbed “cash for favours” by the British media.
To be fair to Mittal, who tries to be as low profile as a man who owns the world’s second largest private steel company can be, the leak about his house purchase probably came from sources close to the estate agents dealing with the sale. FPD Savills, Beauchamp Estates and Glentree, the three estate agents handling the deal, have not commented so far.
The house was sold by a former Labour donor, Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One racing boss, who bought it for his wife, Slavica, three years ago as a “surprise gift”. The couple never moved in because Mrs Ecclestone did not like the place.
The Sunday Times says Mittal’s purchase is likely to be recognised in the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive. The previous record was £62.7 million for a 1997 sale in Hong Kong.
Mittal’s new house consists of the former Egyptian embassy and a one-time annexe to the Soviet embassy knocked into a single sprawling home. Nearby are Kensington Palace and the London home of the Sultan of Brunei.
It was originally purchased for £40 million by David Khalili, an Iranian art dealer who spent seven years and millions of pounds on renovations, during which the building was lifted on stilts to allow the installation of a swimming pool in the basement with a ceiling supported by six marble columns inlaid with precious stones. There is more than 9,000sq ft of marble throughout the house. The house also has one of the most high-technology security systems, including 65 CCTV cameras.
“This is a trophy house,” gushed one estate agent. “I have never seen anything like it.”
However, when it was first put on the market it failed to achieve the £65-million asking price and was sold to a Liechtenstein trust for £50 million in 2001. The purchaser was Ecclestone.