Austerity at home, opulence abroad...
That appears to be the House of Saud’s new motto in an era when Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has successfully consolidated power, ensuring his Saudi Vision 2030 plan to diversify the kingdom’s energy-dependent economy will proceed unchallenged.
But while the kingdom was cutting back on gas subsidies, government jobs, and other components of the state’s largesse - one of the KSA’s most valuable tools in preventing domestic unrest that could lead restive elements in Saudi society to challenge the King’s authority - MbS was purchasing the world’s most expensive home.
According to the New York Times, when it was purchased for $300 million two years ago, the Chateau Louis XIV, a mansion located just outside Paris, was billed as the most expensive home ever sold.
Here’s how Town & Country described it at the time of the sale.
The house - if one can refer to it with such a modest term - features an aquarium, home theater, squash court, underground nightclub, and wine cellar.
Outside, in the 57-acre park in which the château is situated, there's "a gleaming gold-leafed fountain" along with "an array of flowers, marble statues, bridle paths, and a hedged labyrinth," all of which "evoke the genius of Le Nôtre," the French landscape architect famous for designing the park at Versailles.
But an investigation by the paper determined that MbS was the mystery buyer. What’s worse, he bought the painting when oil prices were still near their lowest levels since the early 2000s, when the full brunt of Saudi austerity was being feld at home.
Mohammad bin Salman
Bin Salman also recently purchased a $500 million yacht, and another Saudi Prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, was revealed to be the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show."
News of the purchase must chagrin the dozens of Saudi princes who’ve had their property and assets forcefully expropriated by their cousin in a purge/cash grab that is helping to replenish Saudi Arabia’s foreign-exchange reserves.
The Kingdom is still planning to offer 5% of Saudi Aramco - believed to be the world’s most valuable company - though the kingdom is still mulling a venue for the offering.