Sir Tom Hunter, the Scottish retail and property entrepreneur, has apparently sold the luxury villa he owns in Cap Ferrat near Nice. According to a report in the Telegraph, some cash-rich Russian oligarch (they still exist these days?) has taken it off his hands for the tidy sum of £50m. Some ‘friends’ told the paper he had received ‘an offer he couldn’t refuse’ – though there was no use of a horse’s head, as far as we know.
The sale comes after a pretty rotten year for Sir Tom. His vehicle West Coast Capital has invested heavily in property, leisure and retail – so he’s suffered more than most from the recent chaos. He got into housebuilding at just the wrong time, buying McCarthy & Stone and then Crest Nicholson near the top of the market – now his holdings are reported to be largely worthless, while Crest is desperately trying to refinance its £800m debt pile. To make matters worse, the chastened HBOS has always been Sir Tom’s biggest backer (for equity as well as debt) – but as it’s incorporated into Lloyds TSB, that source of funds could dry up somewhat.
In fact, according to the Scottish Evening Times, Sir Tom’s fortune has shrunk from £1bn to £750m as a result (meaning that he’s no longer Scotland’s richest man, apparently). His ‘friends’ insist that this isn’t why he’s selling his villa – and we can believe that, given that he’s not exactly on the breadline even after the events of this year. But since it’s now a lot harder for him to fulfil his most famous ambition, revealed in the grounds of this very villa – to give away £1bn of his own money to charitable causes during his lifetime – we’re glad that those ever-generous Russians are topping up the pot.
What’s more, it also shows depressed homeowners that there are buyers out there - and it’s not just the filthy rich who could benefit. Given how much money some of these Russian oligarchs have lost recently, a few might be on the look-out for a three-bed semi in Plumstead rather than a mansion in the south of France.
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UK sales tumble, global car business hits brick wall
Eurostar shines bright at 2008 Green Business Awards
Federation of Small Businesses demands cut as bankruptcy fears mount
MT's Little Ray of Sunshine: Nice for Sir Tom