The most valuable home on the planet is a historic villa in the south of France, and it’s for sale. But you can’t afford it. Don’t feel bad, though; at over 300 million euros (or about $335 million at present exchange rates), you could probably count on your fingers the number of Americans who could afford it. There is literally not a single person or couple in Hollywood who could afford it; Kanye can’t afford it, even if you include Kim’s money; Trump can’t afford it (consensus among New York insiders is that his net worth is between $100 million and $300 million); Lebron ($1 billion lifetime deal with Nike) might be able to afford it, but he’d have to take out a pretty scary mortgage.
Basically, just a small handful of multi-billionaire tech people could realistically consider making this villa their own – people like Bill Gates, whose colleague, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, coincidentally lives next door in a slightly less palatial villa named Villa Maryland, where he’s hosted Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. (Who also couldn’t afford this place.)
It’s called Villa les Cedres, and it’d it was originally built in 1870 for King Leopold of Belgium. The villa, located in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat between Nice and Monaco, was in the royal family until 1924, when it was sold to Alexander Marnier-Lapostolle, creator of the Grand Marnier, ie the Kahlua (or maybe even the Bud Light Strawber-ita) of early 20th century Europe. It’s still owned by the Marnier company, who are now looking to offload it. Saint Jean Cap Ferrat is the most expensive part of the French Riviera, and many brokers wonder if there’s anyone left who can afford a place like this who doesn’t already have one, now that plummeting oil prices have dented so many individual net worths.
The villa comes with 35 acres of highly cultivated botanical gardens, a chapel, stables, a reception hall, and classically landscaped terraces; the Marnier company gives occasional tours to botanists, who tell stories of rare trees, flower beds dating to the 1920s, elaborate rose gardens and orangeries, ponds, statues, and massive beds of herbs that are used in making Grand Marnier.
Neighbors include a Russian oil oligarch, the family who founded Nutella (I mean, I like it on a bagel, but is it really worth billions?!), the aforementioned Paul Allen of Microsoft, and a German industrialist (a type of person I thought only existed in bondage-themed romance ebooks). Russian oligarchs have been buying properties in the area for the last decade, but recent market fluctuations have reduced their buying power. A nearby villa, Villa Leopolda, was the source of some Slavic embarrassment a few years ago when the owner received an unsolicited $385 million Euro offer for the house, accepted (obviously), only to have the prospective buyer, Russian nickel tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov (the richest of the Russian oligarchs, owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, and jet ski daredevil) pull out at the last minute when some stock market fluctuations tanked his net worth. Worse yet (for Prokhorov), he’d already put down a $38 million deposit, which he then lost. He even went to court to try and get the money back (when a Russian oligarch goes to court over $38 million, you know his wallet is hurting) but lost on appeal. To add insult to injury, the owner of Villa Leopolda then donated the deposit to charity.
If you and like ten million of your friends were thinking of pooling your money and making an offer, you better act fast; brokers say there’s already been interest from Middle Eastern and North American buyers.
BY FRANKLIN SCHNEIDER