For Sale: The World's First $1+ Billion Dollar House

Exactly two years ago, we reported about what we dubbed at the time was "absolute bubble insanity" - a double skyscraper called the Tour Odeon, located in the French Riviera, which would house a 3,300 square-meter (35,500 square-foot) penthouse with a water slide connecting a dance floor to a circular open-air swimming pool. While the description was nice, it was the bottom line that was mindblowing: that appartment was priced to sell for more than 300 million euros ($400 million at the time) when it went to market the following year. That made it the world’s most expensive penthouse, according to broker Knight Frank LLP.

Below are some images of the nearly half a billion dollar penthouse in question (including the water slide into the pool).



And while we don't know if and at what price the Odeon's penthouse ended up selling for, we did predict that it was only a matter of time before this nearly half a billion price tag would be eclipsed by a full, round billion.

Two years later, the forecast has come true: as the Mail reports, the most expensive house in the world has been offered for sale at a price of over €1billion ($1.1 billion), located yet again in the south of France. The address in the billionaire's playground of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Les Cedres, is owned by Suzanne Marnier-Lapostolle, a member of the Grand Marnier dynasty who is supposedly seeking to "downsize." 

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has a population of just over 2000

Cap Ferrat was named in 2012 as the second most expensive place to buy a
home in the world after Monaco

While the French economy is struggling under the weight of both a collapse in tourism as a result of a recent surge in terrorist attacks, and the destructive influence of a socialist government, Nice Matin on Friday reported that the former home of Belgium King Leopold II can be yours (assuming you are a multi-billionare, of course) for "one billion euros."

The former home of Belgium King Leopold II, Les Cedres

The monthly gardening bill alone is said to be in the hundreds of thousands.

What does $1.1 billion buy you in Nice these days? The 10-bedroom property, which comes with an Olympic size swimming pool, is located in a coastal enclave close to Nice. Its garden includes 35 acres of manicured lawns, 15,000 plants, and some 20 greenhouses containing rare tropical vegetation. The palatial home features a ballroom and also stables for up to 30 horses.

Close neighbors include British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and US tech tycoon Paul Allen.

According to the French newspaper, Les Cedres was last owned by Suzanne Marnier-Lapostolle, part of the Grand Marnier liquor dynasty. However after the company was bought by Campari in March, the home was also transferred over by the Italian group.

The swimming pool at Les Cedres pictured in September 1973

Campari has decided to sell the home so the heiress is said to be downsizing and looking for a buyer who will care for a house that has been in the family since 1924. Some 15 professional gardeners are currently employed by her full time, and she hopes all will be kept on.

But, as often happens in the rather insane world of multi-billionaires,  there are fears that speculators will move in, and build new hugely expensive properties in the gardens.

Until that happens, however, finding a buyer may be tricky now that oligarchs from China, Russia and Saudi Arabia no longer are burning cash around the globe on real estate.

A real estate agent in Moncaco, cited by the Mail, said that  "we have not received instructions to sell. These kind of properties tend to be marketed very discreetly." Still, "despite France’s problems, there should be a buyer around. The billionaire market does not have much to do with countries – there will be international interest."  It just won't be coming from any Vancouver "flippers" any time soon: that particular housing bubble just burest.

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Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, which currently has a population of just over 2000, has attracted celebrities and royalty from all over the world throughout its history. Regulars have included actors Charlie Chaplin and David Niven, writer William Somerset-Maugham, movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The most high profile property transaction in the stretch of Riviera around Nice came in 2008, when Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov offered 320 million to buy Villa Leopolda.

The mansion in Villefranche-sur-Mer, next door to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, was owned by Lily Safra, who had inherited it from her banker husband, Edmond Safra. Prokhorov pulled out of the sale following the 2008 financial crisis, leading to Mrs Safra successfully suing him to keep the deposit of £33million.

A huge fan of the desirable coastal area, King Leopold II once owned the entire west side of the Cap Ferrat. In 1904 he purchased Villa Pollonnais, built in 1830, and its 15 acres of land and after extensive renovation renamed it Le Cedres.  The property was principally used as his holiday home. The man who designed the gardens of the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysees was responsible for the impressive design of Le Cedres’ grounds and pool area.

The man who designed the gardens of the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysees was
responsible for the design of Le Cedres’ grounds and pool area

Cap Ferrat was named in 2012 as the second most expensive place to buy a home in the world after Monaco, with residents enjoying a pleasant climate and a popular yachting scene. That alone may be sufficient to find the world's biggest fool, if not outright idiot. Sure enough, after Grand Marnier was bought by Italy's Campari spirits group's and they took ownership of the historic villa, Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz told Bloomberg he has already received approaches from Middle Eastern and North American buyers.

And because nothing screams guillotines louder than one billionaire paying another billionaire more than a billion dollars for a seaside villa, we are confident the buyer's identity will remain a well-guarded secret.