Aug 14, 2008

Lifestyle - Mittal loses record for most expensive home purchase

Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal has lost the world record for the most expensive home purchase to an anonymous Russian billionaire, who has forked out USD 750 million for a French villa, built by a Belgian king and once frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan.

The present inhabitant Lily Safra, the widow of Edmond Safra -- a billionaire and founder of Republic Bank of New York -- is expected to move out and give the possession to the new buyer next month.

While the sale of the property with a never heard of price tag has made headlines in a number of French newspapers such as Nice Matin and Le Parisien, as well as in the British media, the name of the buyer is not yet known.

The reports have said that the Russian oil billionaire does not want to disclose his name.

The deal, priced at 500 million euro (close to USD 750 million), is more than double the previous world record of 117 million pound paid by Mittal for a house in Kensington Palace Gardens area of London earlier this year for his son Aditya.

Safra bought the French villa in 1999 a few months before his death. The Republic Bank of New York was bought by HSBC.

The property named Villa Leopolda is said to be dotted with over a thousand olive, lemon and orange trees and has close to 50 people to take care of its garden only.

It was build in early 1900s by King Leopold II of Belgium and was later converted by his nephew and heir King Albert I into a hospital in 1916 for treating soldiers injured in World WarI. In 1950s, it was bought by Italian auto giant Fiat's former Chief Giovanni Agnelli as his summer holiday home.

During Agnelli's ownership days, it was home to a number of high-profile parties attended by Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan among others.

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