A Russian oligarch is the brand new owner of Villa Leopolda on the coast of France’s Cote d’Azur. The monumental sale of the Villa Leopolda has made headline news when the estate was sold last week for a total of $750 million after being on the market for some time.
Deemed the most expensive house on the planet now, Villa Leopolda is one of the most sumptuous estates on the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera. Playground of the rich and famous, the villa has attracted plenty of eyeballs with its grandeur. But this isn’t all. Back in 1999, then owner Edmond Safra, the Lebanese-Jewish banking billionaire was murdered by his male nurse. Since then his widowed wife Lily Safra has been gauging the market for some time, passionately waiting for the right time to sell.
Originally built by King Leopold II of Belgium at the beginning of 1900, the cream-colored villa is set in 20 acres of gardens overlooking Cap Ferrat, near Villefranche-sur-Mer. King Leopold II bought the land for a bargain and the estate soon become a magnet for high society.
Aerial View Map of Villa Leopolda (Google Maps)
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Then later in 1916, his nephew and heir, King Albert I, turned the villa into a hospital for officers wounded during the First World War. Later, the villa was purchased by the famous Agnelli family (founders of Fiat). It soon became notorious for jet set parties attracting celebrities like Ronald Reagan, Frank Sinatra and others.
The estate is so big, it requires 50 full time gardeners. The grounds cover 20 acres of garden and visitors can stroll amongst 1,200 olive, orange, lemon and cypress trees.
The new Russian super-rich have been quietly buying up large properties on the Cote d’Azur in recent years, but previous sale prices have never exceeded €200m. The highest recorded sale to date is the £100m paid by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal for a mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens last year.
The unnamed Russian billionaire has paid almost four times as much for the Villa Leopolda.
“It has become surreal,” one French estate agent told the newspaper Le Parisien. “You daren’t offer these people a house which costs less than €100m or they boot you out… and not very politely.”
The villa is situated half way between Nice and Monaco. It looks across the Villefranche bay at Cap Ferrat, which has become one of the world’s most sought-after pieces of real estate. Not so long ago the newspaper Nice-Matin cited legal sources and stated that 60 of the villas or mansions on Cap Ferrat are now owned by Russians.