‘Our family philosophy is to build a bridge between India and Britain.’
The latest venture of the London-based Hinduja Group — the £1.2 billion purchase of Britain’s Old War Office (OWO) and its conversion into a palatial, upmarket hotel with Raffles of Singapore, also possessing extraordinarily priced, posh apartments — is creating tidal waves.
Financial Times, probably the first morning daily the corporate world reads in Britain and elsewhere, featured the unveiling of Raffles London at The OWO in a story headlined ‘The big hotel openings of 2022’.
The article read: ‘Six years ago, the Hinduja Group and OHL Developments (a Spanish firm) paid more than £350m for a 250-year lease on the Old War Office in Whitehall (the government district of the British capital), a turreted former government ministry that opened in 1906, having cost a then-staggering £1.2m to build.’
‘Next winter it will open as a hotel — Raffles London at The OWO — with 120 rooms, 85 residences, a spa and 11 restaurants and bars, its interiors the work of New York-based Thierry Despont,’ FT reported.
Of Indian descent, Gopi Hinduja, co-chairman of the Group, speaking exclusively to Business Standard, said: “We are delighted this unique project is coming to reality and a legacy is being established.”
Second of four brothers in the business, he added, “Our family philosophy is to build a bridge between India and Britain.”
The OWO was once the heartbeat of the United Kingdom’s ministry of defence.
Winston Churchill worked in the building as secretary of state for war and air from 1919-1921.
The office was previously occupied by a predecessor, Lloyd George, and later John Profumo, who got entangled in a sex scandal with a young woman Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a Russian diplomat during the Cold War, and had to resign from the Harold MacMillan government in 1963. Its principal suite will be named after Churchill.
On a more contemporary note, FT added: ‘Expect much to be made of Ian Fleming too. He is said to have developed his idea for James Bond while employed here as a naval intelligence officer during the second world war. Indeed, no other building has featured in as many 007 films.’
‘In Octopussy, A View to a Kill, and Licence to Kill it stood in for MI6 (headquarters of the UK’s external espionage agency). It has a cameo in Spectre. And the final scene of Skyfall was shot on its roof, soon to be the setting of a restaurant with panoramic views.’
The rates for a room — yet to be set — are expected to be astronomical. At the same time, it would become a status symbol to patronise the property.
High-profile billionaires, even millionaires, could be happy to be seen within its majestic high walls and ceilings.
Earlier, Britain’s The Times ran a full-page splash.
It captioned: ‘Estate agents make a killing at War Office’. Its subheading was: ‘Bond’s glorious view cost £11,000 (Rs 11 lakh/Rs 1.1 million) per square foot.’
The Times revealed: ‘The price per square foot is the highest ever paid for a property in London, beating the £7,400 paid for a flat in the Candy brothers’ One Hyde Park development in 2017.’
‘The latest secret associated with the building,’ The Times wrote, ‘is the identity of the billionaire in his thirties who was prepared to pay more than £11,000 per square foot for a flat costing an estimated £40 million on its uppermost floors… The owner of the grand apartment on the fifth and sixth floors is rumoured among estate agents to be a man with connections to the building’s owners.’
Charlie Walsh of estate agents Knight Frank was quoted as saying that ‘the incredible duplex four-bed one-of-a-kind residence has sold for a record-breaking price’.
Gopi Hinduja, who is now spearheading the group, and his three brothers migrated from Tehran just before the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Their diversified investments include ownership of Askok Leyland in India and its subsidiary Switch in the UK, Europe and North America, Gulf Oil internationally, Hinduja Bank in Switzerland and IndusInd Bank in India.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com
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