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10th May 2022

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Mukesh Ambani

Asia’s richest man has bought an English country club that featured in two James Bond films for £57m, adding a trophy asset to a global portfolio that includes UK toy store Hamleys.

A subsidiary of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries has agreed a deal for Stoke Park, a Georgian mansion on 300 acres in Buckinghamshire, which includes a luxury hotel and golf club.

The acquisition adds glamour to Ambani’s conglomerate, which is better known for its Indian energy and telecoms businesses. “You can see Windsor Castle from the golf course: it is a trophy asset,” said Charles McDowell, a buying agent. 

Stoke Park has been in the hands of the King family, owners of healthcare company International Hospitals Group, since 1988. The family put the estate up for sale in 2018 and was originally aiming for a far higher price, according to two people with knowledge of the sale. 

The estate, which attracted interest from buyers from China and the Middle East as well as Ambani, had been hoped to fetch “more than £100m”, said one of the people.

Before opening as a luxury country club in 1908, Stoke Park was a private residence. Roarie Scarisbrick, partner at buying agency Property Vision, said one potential buyer had considered converting the 49-bedroom hotel back into a home but pulled out because “they didn’t want the reputational fallout” from closing the golf club and sacking staff.

Announcing the deal, Reliance said Stoke Park would remain a members’ club and that it would “look to enhance the sports and leisure facilities at this heritage site, while fully complying with the planning guidelines and local regulations”.

Ambani sees the property as good value, said one person close to the tycoon. “There will be an influx of funding,” they said.

The person added that its proximity to Heathrow meant Stoke Park could make a good corporate retreat for top Reliance executives.

Stoke Park’s 27-hole golf course is known for being the setting for “cinema’s most famous golfing scene”, according to the estate’s website, in which Sean Connery’s James Bond plays against villain Auric Goldfinger, in the 1964 film.

A weekend round on the course costs £225.

Mukesh Ambani sees the property as good value, according to a person close to the Indian tycoon © Bloomberg

Ambani has a net worth of $71.5bn, making him Asia’s wealthiest man, according to Bloomberg data. He inherited Reliance, India’s largest company, after his father’s death in 2002.

The acquisition of the historic property underscores Ambani’s efforts to transform Reliance from an industrial group centred on oil refining to a consumer-facing business with a global footprint.

He has also looked to push into prestigious global brands, most notably with the 2019 acquisition of storied British toy retailer Hamleys for £68m.

Under Ambani, Reliance has diversified into retail, as the India partner for brands such as Marks and Spencer and Tiffany, as well as digital services with the 2016 launch of telecoms operator Jio. Jio last year raised $20bn from top global investors including Facebook and Google.

Energy nonetheless continues to drive the group’s revenues.

In hospitality, Reliance already owns a stake in Oberoi Hotels, one of India’s top luxury chains and said it was building a convention centre and hotel complex in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex, a sleek business district in the financial capital.

Chester King, managing director of Stoke Park, said owning the estate had been “a great honour” for his family, adding that he was “delighted that the new owners share the same respect for the club’s incredible heritage”.

“It was clear that this represents business as usual for our members, customers, and the local community.”

2021-04-23 10:58:44

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By admin