‘Broke’ mogul sells Cape pad for R70m

2014-03-16 14:00

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A year after flamboyant liquor baron and Formula 1 team owner Vijay Mallya slipped off the Forbes billionaires world list and shut down his airline, he has sold his sprawling Cape Town mansion to “a friend” for R70?million.

Mallya, the 58-year-old chairperson of India’s UB Group, dropped from an estimated net worth of $1.4?billion (R14.9?billion) in 2012 to $750?million in October last year.

The house on Nettleton Road, Clifton, which is considered to be one of South Africa’s most expensive streets, comes complete with a glass elevator, porcelain tiles imported from Italy, a walk-in safe, a gym and garage space for four cars.

A source who works in local real estate told City Press the private transaction took place at the end of last month.

“It was a private purchase. The buyer was a friend of Vijay’s. The thing is Vijay very rarely used the place, so this guy approached him and asked if he could buy it.”

The source said Mallya and his girlfriend Pinky Lalwani last hosted lavish parties on the mansion’s patio, which flanks a 25m-long infinity pool, in December 2012.

Lalwani used to be a flight attendant for Mallya’s now-defunct airline, Kingfisher Airlines.

India’s Mumbai Mirror reported Mallya’s financial woes appear to have deepened the bond between the two, who count among their friends Monaco’s Prince Albert and his South African-born wife Charlene Wittstock.

The buyer of Mallya’s house is described as a “private equity investor” from Zimbabwe, a jet-setting businessman who splits his time between Monaco, Italy and South Africa.

Mallya bought the property for R60 million in 2010, a record sale at the time.

Over the years, it has accommodated movie stars, singers and royalty.

Prince Carl Philip of Sweden – the dashing son of King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia – stayed there during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Singer George Michael lived there five years ago, and in 2004 actor Nicolas Cage and his third wife Alice Kim stayed there for nine weeks while he filmed the blockbuster Lord of War.

This week, luxury property rental agent Will Mellor remembered how Cage didn’t once remove his sunglasses when first showed around the place.

“Nic wore his shades all the way through while I showed him the house. He was quiet and never said a word except at the very end,” said Mellor.

He added the Hollywood star had special white cotton pillow cases – embellished with the couple’s embroidered initials – brought into the main bedroom, which overlooks the beach far below.

Mellor also recalled how the actor kept a packet of red Marlboro cigarettes on his bedside table.

Mallya’s taste for fast cars, yachts, racehorses, jets, game lodges and general opulence is well documented.

He has also been elected to India’s Parliament twice.

In 2009, he famously spent $1.8 million on Gandhi memorabilia at a New York auction. He bought items like the Indian national hero’s eyeglasses, leather sandals and the last cup he drank from. that Gandhi’s great-grandson, Tushar, said on The BBC reported Indian television: “I am delighted, absolutely delighted that Vijay Mallya bought these things and they will now come back to India.”

In September 2012, an editorial in Firstpost India strongly questioned Mallaya’s business acumen, suggesting he might be India’s worst businessman.

His other South African assets include the private Mabula Game Lodge in Limpopo and the Cape Milner Hotel in the leafy Cape Town suburb of Tamboerskloof. A manager at the hotel said business was going strong.

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