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Indian billionaire Ravi Ruia has bought a £113mn mansion in London’s Regent’s Park linked to Russian property investor Andrey Goncharenko, in an off-market deal that underlines the continuing secrecy around the sales of Britain’s most expensive homes.
The family office of Ruia, who co-owns the Mumbai-based Essar Group, bought Hanover Lodge this month through a sale of the property’s Gibraltar-incorporated holding company, according to several people with knowledge of the transaction.
The private sale has closed at a time when UK lawmakers are attempting to improve transparency around property ownership. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also prompted them to try to reverse the capital’s reputation as a haven for oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
Goncharenko — the former deputy chief executive of Gazprom Invest Yug, a subsidiary of the state-backed Russian utility — bought the Regency property’s outstanding lease in 2012 from Conservative peer Raj Kumar Bagri for £120mn, according to one person involved in the deal and Land Registry records.
Land Registry property records show the leaseholder, a special purpose vehicle named Green Palace Gardens Limited, has not changed since the 2012 purchase. Goncharenko was the ultimate owner of the property as recently as two years ago, another person with direct knowledge of the situation told the Financial Times.
The Gibraltarian SPV registered with Companies House in January. The beneficial owner is listed as a Cypriot trust, Proteas Trustee Services Ltd.
The sale to Ruia did not result in a change in Hanover Lodge’s long lease, which runs until 2161, according to Land Registry records. The freehold is held by the Crown Estate, the British monarchy’s multi billion-pound legacy portfolio of land and property holdings, which also owns many of the flats and houses in and around Regent’s Park.
A spokesperson for the Ruia family office, which was advised on the deal by the law firm Withers, said: “The subject property in the UK is under construction and became available at a price which makes it an attractive investment for the family office.”
Both the family office and Withers declined to provide any counterparty details. The FT was not able to reach Goncharenko for comment. A lawyer who worked on the registration of the Gibraltarian SPV declined to comment on its owner.
The 2,400 square metres mansion at 150 Park Road, which was once the residence of the French ambassador to the UK, became the most expensive publicly known asset in Goncharenko’s London portfolio. Goncharenko, who is not the target of sanctions put in place following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, also previously bought two other homes in Hampstead and Belgravia, according to press reports.
International buyers have in recent decades dominated the market for London’s most expensive homes thanks in part to the UK capital’s property laws and the possibility to purchase homes discreetly.
But London’s high-end property market has come under greater scrutiny since the UK government introduced laws last year that require offshore companies that own property in England and Wales to name their ultimate owner in a register of overseas entities.
The success of this initiative has been mixed. Luxury London real estate is still changing hands without the identity of both buyer and seller becoming known to the public.
Hanover Lodge, a grade II* listed building overlooking Regents Park, was built around 1827 and designed by John Nash, the architect behind what would become Buckingham Palace. It houses a gym, a sauna and a gallery as well as accommodation for in-house staff and a swimming pool that can be converted into a ballroom.
The mansion’s new owner, Ruia, made his fortune through building the Essar conglomerate, which he founded more than 50 years ago with his brother Shashi Ruia. The global business has $8bn in assets under management and owns companies in sectors including metal, mining, infrastructure and energy.
The prices of homes in areas that typically attract overseas buyers — such as Mayfair, Westminster and Marylebone — have been more resilient in the second quarter of this year than in other neighbourhoods such as Richmond and Holland Park, which are more associated with domestic buyers, according to estate agency Savills.
Additional reporting by Chris Cook in London and Max Seddon in Riga