New Zealand millionaire snatches Pablo Picasso’s villa from auction winner using France’s unusual “Surenchere” bidding laws

New Zealand based finance tycoon Rayo Withanage has used a bidding method unusual to French law – Surenchere – to secure the Mougins estate where artist Pablo Picasso lived from 1961 until his death in 1973, aged 91.

Withanage is paying €20.1 million (A$30.2 million) for Mas de Notre Dame de Vie, which is perched on Cote d’Azur hills, on the French Riviera, near Cannes.

The property had actually been recorded as sold to another buyer in June for €18.755 million (A$28.2 million).

However under the law of Surunchere (which translates to “outbid”), a counter-offer can be made within 14 days – provided the value is 10 per cent higher than the previous best bid and a 10 per cent “guarantee” is supplied.

In this instance, another auction was held last week giving all potential purchasers the chance to beat Withanage’s bid, provided they too could offer the guarantee. But with no other bids, Picasso’s old home sold to the Fiji born New Zealander, who has two months to pay the balance.

Picasso gradually expanded the estate during his period of ownership adding a studio which still stands. His wife, Jacqueline Roque, lived at Mas de Notre Dame de Vie until her death in 1986.

On eight hectares of land – and with an internal area of more than 13,000 feet – the home sits amongst a garden the most recent owners restored to Picasso’s original design.

Architect Axel Vervoodt undertook a major renovation of the dwelling in 2007. The resort-like offering also includes a tennis court, summer kitchen, gym, 5000 bottle wine cellar, guest house, caretakers cottage, spa and pool house.

Residence365’s agent Hans Veenhuisjen has been marketing the property this year.

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Marc Pallisco

A freelance property writer and experienced analyst, Marc is the co-founder of