After more than 18 months of speculation, distiller, Davide-Campari-Milano SpA, listed the French estate Villa Les Cedres over the weekend with a price guide of €350 million (A$524.5 million).
The price is a far cry from the €1 billion (A$1.498 billion) value media outlets attached to the property (pictured top and left) when the Italian drink giant acquired it in mid-2016, as part of its buyout of Grand-Marnier.
It would, however, surpass the €275 million (converted to A$417 million at the time) record achieved when France’s Chateau Louis XIV sold in late 2015.
Last month, a Bel Air mansion in the United States was listed for sale asking US$500 million (A$634 million).
The French Riviera’s unique Bubble Palace, owned by designer Pierre Cardin, is also contending for the title – asking €295 million (A$442.1 million) which is actually a discount on the asking price from when it hit the market more than a year ago.
In 2015, a 510,527 acre ranch in Texas was listed for sale asking $US725 million (A$919.2 million).
Villa Les Cedres is on France’s exclusive Saint-Jean-Cap-Feratt coast – a small area sometimes described as a “billionaire’s playground” between Monaco and Nice.
Built in 1830, the estate was sold 20 years later to the mayor of Villefranche-sur-Mer, who operated it as an olive farm (some of these trees still exist). The villa was sold by family members of the mayor to King Leopold II of Belgium in 1865, who in 1904 expanded the garden – which are considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe.
In 1924 – 15 years after the Kings death – the villa sold to Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle, the owner of the Grand Marnier liquor brand. It was controlled by heiress Suzanne Marnier-Lapostolle until last June, when Campari acquired the Grand Marnier business, which included this property asset. It is reported the heiress will downsize.
Across 35 acres, the estate is reported as having between 10 and 14 bedrooms, a ballroom, chapel, winter garden and a library capable of holding 3000 books and with a 17th century botanical codex. It also includes a 50-metre swimming pool dug into the rocks and stables for 30 horses.
The garden – said to require 15 full-time workers to maintain – includes 15,000 rare tropical species, considered to be Europe’s largest collection.
The home is said to have accommodated guests including Winston Churchill, who reportedly loved painting the gardens, as well as Prince Rainier III of Monaco, Elizabeth Taylor and Charlie Chaplin.
Neighbouring home owners include British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and members of wealthy families including the Ferrero’s (of Nutella fame), Mondadori (publishing), Givenchy (designers) and Saatchi (advertising).
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin rented the Le Grand Hotel de Cap-Ferrat in the area last June to accommodate 350 guests for his wedding.
The campaign to sell Villa Les Cedres is being handled by members of the Marnier family and Campari Group representatives. It has been reported the sale proceeds will be distributed amongst shareholders.