Monday, December 18, 2017

Now It Can Be Told: Mohammed bin Salman Was the Mystery Buyer of the $300 Million French Château

It's good to be King Crown Prince—although at the time of purchase he was just another Saudi prince, second in line to the throne.
From the New York Times:

World’s Most Expensive Home? Another Bauble for a Saudi Prince
LOUVECIENNES, France — When the Chateau Louis XIV sold for over $300 million two years ago, Fortune magazine called it “the world’s most expensive home,” and Town & Country swooned over its gold-leafed fountain, marble statues and hedged labyrinth set in a 57-acre landscaped park. But for all the lavish details, one fact was missing: the identity of the buyer.

Now, it turns out that the paper trail leads to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heir to the Saudi throne and the driving force behind a series of bold policies transforming Saudi Arabia and shaking up the Middle East.

The 2015 purchase appears to be one of several extravagant acquisitions — including a $500 million yacht and a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting — by a prince who is leading a sweeping crackdown on corruption and self-enrichment by the Saudi elite and preaching fiscal austerity at home.

“He has tried to build an image of himself, with a fair amount of success, that he is different, that he’s a reformer, at least a social reformer, and that he’s not corrupt,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. analyst and author. “And this is a severe blow to that image.”

The story of Chateau Louis XIV, as pieced together through interviews and documents by The New York Times, unfolds like a financial whodunit, featuring a lawyer in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and a fixer for the very rich from the Mediterranean nation of Malta. Even Kim Kardashian made a cameo at the chateau, reportedly considering it for her wedding to Kanye West.

The ownership of the chateau, in Louveciennes, France, near Versailles, is carefully shrouded by shell companies in France and Luxembourg. Those companies are owned by Eight Investment Company, a Saudi firm managed by the head of Crown Prince Mohammed’s personal foundation. Advisers to members of the royal family say the chateau ultimately belongs to the crown prince.
Eight Investment was the same company that backed Prince Mohammed’s impulse buy of the 440-foot yacht from a Russian vodka tycoon in 2015. The company also recently bought an 620-acre estate in Condé-sur-Vesgre, known as Le Rouvray, an hour’s drive from Paris. The chateau’s architect is refurbishing the manor house there and building structures for an apparent hunting compound, according to permit records at the local town hall.

Versailles Style, Modern Amenities
The chateau’s developer, Emad Khashoggi, nephew of the late billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, bulldozed a 19th-century castle in Louveciennes to make way for the new chateau in 2009. To the naked eye it appears to have been built in the time of Versailles, the royal palace that set a world standard for gaudy luxury. But the 17th-century design camouflages 21st-century technology. The fountains, sound system, lights and whisper-silent air conditioning can all be controlled remotely by iPhone....MUCH MORE, including slide show
Messy Nessy (linked by us in "Huh, Apparently The Barbie Doll Began Life As a High-end German Call Girl Named Lilli"  and many others) had some of the best interior shots of the house:
...What feels like an online sales brochure, except it’s not, is accompanied by dozens of overly-photoshopped images of the vast property, including a few cheesy stock photos of a woman dressed in Cinderella-style evening wear, climbing the stairs– before it strikes midnight and she realises Prince Charming never moved in, and her fairytale castle is a big empty replica show home.
The five meter high ceilings with copycat trompe l’oeil frescoes as seen at Château Vaux-le-Viconte, hide perfectly silent air conditioning vents. Hidden under the palace’s very own moat is a “meditation room” inside a giant glass bubble for admiring the marine life within the giant aquarium.
Also built in the moat is an underwater 50 square meter safe, enclosed by two heavy armoured doors with a real vault and a garage that can hold eight vehicles. An entire floor is dedicated to leisure, with an indoor and outdoor heated pool, which you can dive into from the terrace above, a squash court, gym, a movie theatre and even a disco with its own bar....