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'One Hyde Park' - A Rare Glimpse Inside The World’s Most Expensive Apartments

In London's most luxurious apartment complex, Arab sheiks and Russian oligarchs share a movie theater and private golf course. A two-story penthouse here recently sold for 162 million euros, a new record for the most expensive home on the planet.

Indulge in a lap of luxury (One Hyde Park)
Indulge in a lap of luxury (One Hyde Park)
Tina Kaiser

LONDON - Without an invitation from a resident, you're not even going to make it past the lobby of London's most exclusive building. The barrage of dark-suited, grim-faced men standing at the entrance to the glass and steel One Hyde Park complex won't let you. If you have an invitation, they'll radio the building's security to run a check and make sure that you are who you say you are. Only then may you proceed inside.

Bulletproof glass, panic rooms, iris recognition scanners in the elevators – security here is as tight as in an embassy, and not without reason. After all, the owners of the 86 luxury apartments in this building are among the richest and most influential people in the world. Arab sheiks, Russian oligarchs, European billionaires, 22 nationalities are represented in the apartment complex overlooking London's Hyde Park.

In its sales literature, the real estate developer Project Grande calls One Hyde Park the most expensive residential address in the world. And they proved it by selling a two-story penthouse for 136 million pounds (162 million euros) – setting the world record for the most expensive home on the planet.

According to British media reports, the buyer is Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine -- with a fortune estimated at 12 billion euros. He is said to have invested a further 72 million euros furnishing the place.

What makes One Hyde Park so unique is first and foremost its location. The complex, comprised of four linked glass buildings, is on the south side of London's best-known park, in the Knightsbridge area. Harrods department store, and the Serpentine and Saatchi art galleries are just a stone's throw away. To the right of One Hyde Park is the five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel, which connects to the complex via an underground passageway. Project Grande has a service contract with the hotel: sixty-eight Mandarin Oriental employees tend exclusively to every wish emanating from residents of One Hyde Park, around the clock. Without leaving their apartment, they can ask a concierge to book theater tickets, send the Rolls Royce round, dispatch a housekeeper to clean the tub, or order a gourmet meal from the hotel's signature restaurant Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

"Service is very important for our clients," says real estate agent Miles Wood of Savills, the London real estate company selling the flats. Buyers travel constantly, and One Hyde Park is one of many residences, he says. "We have a sheik, for example, who already owns a house in London but used to stay at a hotel because he couldn't be bothered to do the house up."

An entire oak forest

In One Hyde Park, on the other hand, after a tiring long-distance flight, residents can order a meal or have a masseur come to their digs. And when pitching to younger prospective clients, Wood says he plays the party "trump card": "I tell them how, at night, after clubbing they can spontaneously invite 20 or 30 friends round and keep on partying at home." Just one call, and room service will fill the champagne buckets. "If that doesn't convince them, I give up," says Wood. He only lets journalists into the building very rarely, he says, because discretion is another of the main sales arguments. However, Woods made an exception for Die Welt and is leading me through the opulent complex.

Only the most precious materials were used in the construction, such as 15 types of marble, as well as wood from an entire oak forest. In the underground garage, the parking spaces are twice as big as normal ones – adjusted to accommodate the Ferraris, Hummers and Bentleys. Other facilities included are a movie theater, a reception room that can hold up to 100 guests, a golf " virtual course" that simulates the world's top greens, a fitness studio, a 120-meter ozone pool, a spa, a sauna, a squash court, and a wine cellar. What residents pay to use the facilities depends on the size of their apartment. Per square meter, services charges in the complex amount to around 179 euros a year. For a five-room apartment, that works out to 163,000 euros annually.

However, it's unlikely that the shared facilities will be crowded any time soon, with sheiks and oligarchs getting in each other's way. True, 68 of the 86 flats have been sold one year after the complex opened, but only three of those were registered as a primary residence. "Our clients call the whole world home. They will spend winters at their ski chalet, summers on their yachts in Cannes or Sardinia, and the rest of the time in their homes in the Middle East, Russia or the United States," says estate agent Woods.

"Ghost town in the heart of London"

Because it is so empty, many British papers compare One Hyde Park to a ghost town in the heart of London. That doesn't however seem to bother its wealthy residents. In February 2012, the last remaining five-bedroom apartment was sold for 72 million euros.

For developer Project Grande, One Hyde Park is already a financial success. The joint venture of the British real estate firm CPC Group and the investment firm owned by Qatar's Prime Minister has already taken in 1.79 billion euros, which covers their entire investment.

The project was a risky one, however, and was considered a potential financial disaster. In 2005, Project Grande took out a 1.38 billion euro loan. The London real estate market was booming at the time, but during construction the financial crisis erupted and the real estate bubble burst. Project Grande reacted courageously by ordering a temporary halt in sales of the apartments in 2009 -- to sit the crisis out and wait for prices to climb again.

The risky decision turned out to be the right one: in the past couple of years, luxury real estate in London has been experiencing a surprising boom. Prices for houses and flats in the ritziest parts of town rose by 14.5% in 2011. The so-called "ultra-prime" market --real estate priced at 17.9 million euros and above– went up as much as 18.6%. The unexpected upturn is due primarily to the unrest in the Middle East, but also to the uncertainty about the future of the euro.

"The London real estate market is seen as a safe haven for investments," explains Wood. One family even bought four apartments at One Hyde Park, and chances are good they will make a profitable investment. A recent independent study by the London real estate firm Knight Frank on the possible increase in value of One Hyde Park showed that by 2016 the price per square meter could have risen by a whopping 40%.

Read the original article in German

Photo - One Hyde Park

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

[*Italian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

🇸🇩💥  IN OTHER NEWS

Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

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