Riddle of the £300million House of Secrets solved: It’s London’s most colossal family home, second only to Buckingham Palace. But only now can the VERY private owner be revealed
- 25-bedroom mansion named Witanhurst is London’s largest private house
- Features 70ft-long ballroom, massage rooms, a gym and swimming pool
- It is likely to become London’s most expensive house at £300million
- Now been claimed owner is Andrey Guryev, Russia’s 28th richest man
It is said to echo the grandeur of Versailles: a 25-bedroom mansion with a 70ft-long ballroom, whose yellow, blue and gold ceiling took six months to paint and gild.
The Georgian ‘Orangery’, a three-storey addition, has a basement with massage rooms, a gym and a swimming pool fit for Olympic athletes.
This is Witanhurst, London’s largest private house. When remodelling is complete, it will spread over 90,000 square feet, second in size only to Buckingham Palace.
It is also likely to become the most expensive London house, with an estimated value of £300 million and neighbours including Kate Moss.
But mystery has surrounded its ownership since it was sold in 2008 for £50 million: registered to a shell company, Safran Holdings, in the British Virgin Islands. Nobody knew – or would reveal – the buyer.
Now, after years of speculation by neighbours, with rumours that the owner was Vladimir Putin, a British writer, Ed Caesar, claims to have discovered the answer.
He says the buyer is Andrey Guryev, Russia’s 28th richest man, with a fortune of £2.6 billion, building a UK refuge for his family.
His wife Evgenia owns a stable of classic and luxury cars, including two Rolls-Royces once belonging to Elton John, says a family friend.
The family usually fiercely guards its privacy, with the exception of Valeria, wife of Andrey Guryev Jr (Mr Guryev’s son), who studied at the London College of Fashion and posted on her Facebook page a picture of her posing on a motorbike in a black miniskirt.
On her Instagram account, recently turned private, her avatar bears the slogan ‘I’m too pretty to work’. She also posted a portrait of herself with a pistol strapped to her bare leg.
Writing in The New Yorker magazine, Mr Caesar says the complicated connections linking Mr Guryev to the house (which was used in the BBC reality show Fame Academy) help obscure and protect his Russian assets and reputation.
But, like many oligarchs, it seems that he is also keen to get much of his wealth outside Russia, where he lives in a gated community situated in a pine-clad area outside Moscow.
Mr Guryev has never registered in Russia that he has ownership of a foreign property.
But in the years since the purchase, Witanhurst – which was built between 1913 and 1920 by English soap magnate Arthur Crosfield, and attracted potentates and Royals as guests, including a young Queen Elizabeth – has seen unrivalled development taking place.
Mr Caesar said that by the end of last year a builder at the site had speculated that the project was costing around £2 million a week and was likely to dramatically outstrip initial estimates of £35 million.
Underneath the forecourt, in front of the main house, the new owners have built a virtual underground village – a basement of more than 40,000 square feet.
In late 2013 the local council approved plans submitted by Safran Holdings for another basement, beneath the gatehouse.
And earlier this year, planning permission was sought to extend an underground ‘servants’ passage’.
Concerns about the offshore ownership were allayed by assertions that ‘This company represents the Russian family which owns Witanhurst.’
But who needs a house this big? According to Robert Adam, an architect who won the commission to rebuild Witanhurst in 2008, it is more an expression of ‘status, ambition and dreams’.
According to Mr Caesar, Mr Guryev visited Witanhurst days before its sale in 2008 and had revealed he planned to use the mansion to house at least two generations of his family.
Though Mr Guryev sails on a super yacht, the Alfa Nero, worth more than £60 million, he does not own it. Indeed he has been keen to play down his wealth.
Noisy neighbours: The owners are thought to be spending around £2million a week to remodel the property – but furious neighbours are exhausted by five years of noise. Luckily the family are thought to own £2.6billion
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