Villa Les Cedres, St Jean Cap Ferrat finds mystery €200 million buyer

Villa Les Cedres, St Jean Cap Ferrat finds mystery €200 million buyer
Villa Les Cedres, St Jean Cap Ferrat finds mystery €200 million buyer

The Italian distiller Davide Campari-Milano SpA has reached a preliminary agreement to sell the historic Villa Les Cedres on the French Riviera for €200 million ($322 million).

It is to an unidentified buyer for private use.

The villa on 14 hectares was among the assets that the Italian distiller acquired with its 2016 purchase of Grand Marnier Group.

The transaction is expected to close at the end of October, though there are conditions, including the departure from the house of one member of the family that controlled Grand Marnier, Campari said in a statement. The family had been in residence since 1924, so for almost 100 years curated one of the prime botanical gardens worldwide.

Villa Les Cedres, St Jean Cap Ferrat finds mystery €200 million buyer

Villa les Cedres, the grand estate at St Jean Cap Ferrat, was listed in mid-2016 when the longtime owners, the Grand Marnier Group was selling their liquor company along with their grand 1800s family home.

Davide Campari-Milano SpA didn't want the prized estate that initially sat amid wild, uncultivated countryside used for fox hunting. In those early days, in summer months shepherds from the high country brought their flocks to graze amongst the olive trees.

Its been written that Cap Ferrat was "discovered" by Leopold II, King of Belgium, who devoted his life to accumulating land and territories for himself and his country.

In 1895 the King visited the Riviera staying in the Grand Hotel of Cimiez at Nice with his daughter Clementine.

In 1904 the king bought a house from the family of Desiré Pollonnais, the former mayor of nearby Villefranche, who grew fruit trees and vines. The king then transformed what was described as a "bucolic paradise" into the property called Les Cedres, the local paper, The Nice Martin once noted

Cap Ferrat was the ideal spot for an illicit love affair, with his mistress Blanche Zélia Josephine Delacroix, better known as Caroline Lacroix, set up at a villa at nearby Passable Beach, renamed the Radiana.

Every evening the King, equipped with a dim lantern, would make his way between the villas following a little path hidden by the trees.

He typically spent two hours with Blanche, officially playing cards, but as the Nice Martin reported nevertheless found the time to father two children, Lucien and Philippe who both had “father unknown” written on their birth certificates.

Leopold’s frequent absences were often criticized in Brussels.

In the early 1900s he built several more villas near the lighthouse on the peninsula. Much of the time, Leopold did not occupy even the grandest of his villas, preferring to stay on his yacht in the Bay of Villefranche.

Leopold died in 1909 at his palace at Laeken with Blanche at his side, and it is rumoured that a marriage ceremony took place.

The Leopold estate was sold to the Marnier-Lapostalle family in the 1920s.

Alexandra Connolly, who runs a local real estate brokerage, suggested at the time of its 2016 listing that it could fetch 200 million euros to 350 million euros.

A mansion outside Paris had fetched a world record price of more than 275 million euros to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Property Observer gleans the Italian distillery had set a June 2021 sale deadline.

Villa Les Cedres, St Jean Cap Ferrat finds mystery €200 million buyer

(PHOTOS JONATHAN CHANCELLOR)

Set on the peninsula to the east of Nice, Villa les Cedres is surrounded by a botanical garden dating back to the 1920s.

The Marnier-Lapostolle family had opened it up for small tour groups of green thumbs several times a year, so it was on Title Tattle's bucket list when the last tour was undertaken in April 2016.

It was a rare chance of access into one of the priciest estates in the world, having seen over recent decades on repeat visits the village coming to terms with the influx of Russian oligarchs and US tech billionaires buy up the homes then installing hedges of high security.

The nearest villa, just across the road, is Maryland where the then Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie once stayed as guests of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

P.S. I was pretty impressed by the garden and the estate's tallest tree, an Australian bunya pine (araucaria bidwillii) and also their most recent planting of an historic Wollemi Pine. The estate has 25 greenhouses. Marc Tessier, the chief gardener, estimated there are over 4,000 species of plants.

The cedar trees (cedres in French) gave the house its name. It was in the orchards near the home that the family harvested bigarades, the bitter oranges used to flavor Grand Marnier.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of our authors. Jonathan has been writing about property since the early 1980s and is editor-at-large of Property Observer.

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