Having been on the market for just over a year, the US embassy building in London’s Grosvenor Square is to be bought by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co. The building was designed by Eero Saarinen and built in 1960, although the American embassy has been located in Grosvenor Square since 1938, and America’s ties to London’s Mayfair district date back to 1785, when John Adams, the first US ambassador to Britain and later the second US President, lived there.
The Diar Real Estate Investment Co. is chaired by the Qatar Prime Minister, Shiekh Hamad Bin Jasmin Bin Jaber Al-Thani. It has already invested a whopping $60 billion in projects in more than eighteen countries including Morocco, Oman, Egypt, Syria, the Seychelles, and the UK. Part of that money is invested in the London Shard project, which will be Western Europe’s largest skyscraper.
The company handling the sale, Cushman & Wakefield, has said that “the whole exercise is cost-neutral”, at least for the US government, which is not surprising given that their annual rent for the property is one peppercorn. Times are tough for the US at the moment. It is actually the only US embassy not owned by the US government, which may say something about the “special relationship” the US has with the UK. They like the country, but not enough to buy there.
Cushman & Wakefield would not reveal how much Diar pad for the building, only that Diar is snapping up the remaining 945 years on the building’s lease, so they might see a profit if they sell at the end of that time. The building is actually owned by the Grosvenor Group Ltd., a property company belonging to the Duke of Westminster, which explains why he only needs one peppercorn in rent. That man is RICH.
The undisclosed amount of proceeds from the sale will go towards the construction of a new embassy building in the Nine Elms area of London’s Wandsworth district, which is south of the River Thames. The fact that it is all going to be “cost-neutral” suggests that the US is onto another freebie with their new London pad. The new embassy will begin construction in 2013 and is set for completion by 2016 or 2017, so the 750 staff at the Grosvenor Square embassy are not yet starting to pack up their U-Hauls.
The location of the new embassy puts it near Britain’s M16 security service headquarters, and it will have more space and better security. No doubt the better security is in light of how many new friends America is making around the world right now.