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No Place Like Home

January 18, 2022

‘The One’ is back on the market. You might recall that this less than modest name was given to a mega-mansion being built in Los Angeles. The construction has lasted ten years. Excessive construction costs drove the property into receivership last year with debts of $165m. The initial developer, Nile Niami, boasted the property would sell for $500m. The actual market price right now is something of a snip at $295m. If you are interested, you can easily find a virtual tour online. Please be aware that the place will go to auction in February if it is not snapped up soon.

News of this 105,000 square-foot mega-mansion got me wondering where the most expensive homes are. Without a hint of patriotic pride, I discovered that the ruling monarch of my country of birth lives in the most valuable house of all. The Brits would no doubt view Buckingham Place as priceless, but somebody has dared to estimate that the Royal home would cost $5bn. I am not sure if that price includes security guards wearing small animals on their heads.

Another London mansion also appears in the top 10 list of most expensive places worldwide. However, this one, located in Kensington, has only royals living next door. The current owners are Indian steel magnates, Taj and Lakshmi Mittal, and their neighbors on one side are none other than Prince William and Kate Middleton. I like to imagine the Mittals babysitting for George, Lois, and Charlotte while William and Kate grab a pie and a pint at a former haunt of mine, The Churchill Arms, which is just around the corner.

‘The One’ is not the only somewhat ostentatious name given to a very grand house. For example, number 6 on the list styles itself as ‘The 8th Wonder of the World.’ To my uneducated eye, the property has more in common with a Lego set for a 12-year-old than any of the original Seven Wonders.

Bill Gates chips in with his own version of an odd name – Xanadu 2.0. This version is located in Washington State, far from the Mongolian plateau where version 1.0 was constructed. Let’s hope the upgrade to the new version took out all the bugs and improved security.

Speaking of wealthy people who are alive today, the top ten list includes another Indian businessman: Mukesh Ambani, who built his $2.6bn pad in Mumbai, India; Ira Rennert, who owns a very grand English stately home incongruously built in Sagaponack, NY; and Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, who unimaginatively named his California home Ellison Estate. Maybe he has Ellison Estate Version 2.0 in development?

I guess the instinct to build grand homes has remained strong throughout the ages, driven by the desire to provide for every need and/or to impress others. For my part, it is hard to call a place home when I cannot call everybody to dinner from the kitchen.

Richard Rushton