Billionaire businessman Gopichand Hinduja last year said buyers from across the globe were evincing interest in the redeveloped Old War Office (OWO) in London. The Edwardian-era property, featured in Skyfall and other James Bond movies, appears to be living up to its billing now.
Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs veteran Todd Leland and Uganda’s businessman King Ceasor Augustus Mulenga have bought flats in the structure, The Sunday Times reported citing Land Registry records.
Australian actress Rebel Wilson is also believed to have bought an apartment. Buyers having links to Hong Kong or mainland China have bought at least three apartments in the Whitehall landmark, the report said.
The Hinduja Group acquired the OWO on a 250-year lease from the Ministry of Defence in 2014 by paying £350 million. Along with its partners, the group spent a further £1 billion to restore the building and redevelop it into a 120-room luxury hotel – set to open as London’s Raffles hotel this year – and 85 residences.
The group, run by the Hindujas, the UK’s richest family which topped the Asian Rich List last year with a combined fortune of £30.5 billion – is also involved in developing legacy structures in Paris and Geneva. But Hinduja last year said the OWO was its “trophy project”.
“I can tell you there is great interest from the US, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bollywood and Hollywood,” he told an Indian newspaper at the time.
The building has historical significance as people working within its walls played a key role in two World Wars and in the Cold War that followed. Notable leaders who worked there included UK prime ministers Herbert Asquith and Winston Churchill.
It is also the place where John Profumo, who during his stint as the secretary of state for war between 1960 and 1963 entertained the model Christine Keeler. His brief affair with the English showgirl who was also in a relationship with the Soviet naval attaché to London eventually led to his resignation.
It is assumed that Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond spy novel series, who once worked in the nearby Naval Intelligence Service offices, visited the OWO.
David Malm of the Boston-based private equity firm Webster Equity Partners spent an estimated £20 million to buy three flats in the building which he described as “breathtaking” both architecturally and historically.
“In an inflationary environment you don’t want to own stocks; you want to own real estate or hard assets,” Malm told The Sunday Times, indicating he could use the properties during business trips to London.