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Saudi billionaire buys Onassis family’s London home for £18.6m

The former London home of the Onassis family with a price tag of £25million has been bought by a Saudi billionaire for his daughter. 

A deal for the palatial first floor flat at 47 Grovesnor Square, Mayfair, was agreed within 24 hours and the Middle Eastern buyer snapped up the property for £18,600,000. 

It is understood that the deal is the highest price achieved for a single unmodernised apartment in Mayfair this year. 

The stunning ambassadorial apartment regularly hosted billionaire Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and his wife Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and was the home of his sister, Artemis Onassis.

Jackie’s younger sister, American socialite Princess Lee Radziwill, and opera singer Maria Callas are also known to have stayed there.

Jeremy Gee, managing director of Beauchamp Estates, who helped find a buyer for the impressive home with Wetherell Estate Agents, said: ‘The deal is cloaked in secrecy but we understand that the apartment has sold to a Middle East buyer, a Saudi billionaire buying for his daughter.’

The grand home, one of the largest and grandest apartments on the world-renowned square, is 5,006 sqft (465.24 sqm) in size and features an impressive entrance hall, five bedrooms, four en-suite bathrooms and a family kitchen.

It also boasts three adjacent reception rooms, totaling 63ft in length, all facing the square, as well as a library with full height glazing and sliding doors opening onto the private terrace. 

The space proved to be the perfect venue for lavish high society parties, with the Onassis family regularly hosting  events when they owned the property in the sixties and seventies.

‘Visiting guests often ­included former First Lady Jackie ­Kennedy Onassis and her children, as well as her sister, Princess Lee Radziwill,’ explained Peter Wetherell, who runs the eponymous estate agency which helped sell the Mayfair property.

The main reception room spans 32ft and the master bedroom suite, which is the size of a conventional apartment, has large ‘his and hers’ walk-in dressing rooms and bathrooms.

There is also a principal guest suite with a walk-in dressing room and ensuite bathroom, plus a formal dining room, study, a cocktail bar, a guest powder room and bathroom, a utility room and a walk-in storage room.  

Its grandeur is accentuated by its 10.3 ft (3.15m) high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious rooms, a south-facing terrace overlooking the building’s rear façade and is the only apartment in the building with a 63 foot balcony facing Grosvenor Square. 

It was brought to market by sole agent Wetherell for the first time in 28 years. 

The first floor apartment extends the entire width and depth of the building and offers a refurbishment opportunity expected to add up to £5million to its value.

The apartment requires a makeover to provide it with the latest specification and interior dressing. There is the potential to add £1,000 per square foot to the value of the property – creating a £30m plus home. 

The apartment’s first owner was Sir John Anderson, the first Viscount Waverley.

It was built between 1938 and 1939 in a neo-Georgian style, designed by Grosvenor’s Detmar Blow and Fenand Billerey, the French Beaux-Arts architect.

The property’s internal fit out was disrupted by WWII, so it was not until after 1945 that the building was fully completed. 

Sir John moved into the Grosvenor Square residence in 1946 – the same year he took up roles as chairman of the Port of London Authority and of the Royal Opera House.

He welcomed Maria Callas to her first performance at the Royal Opera House in 1952, and championed the opera singer’s visits to the Covent Garden Opera House in 1953, 1957 and 1958.

Maria first met Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis in 1957, and the pair started up a famous love affair that continued for over 11 years.

When Sir John’s Grosvenor Square residence became available, the Onassis family acquired it and, during the sixties and seventies, the apartment served as the London home of Artemis Onassis and her husband Theodore Garoufalidis.

Theodore was president of Olympic Airways, the Greek national carrier which between 1956 to 1974 was owned by Aristotle.

Under Aristotle and Theodore, Olympic Airways was given a luxury makeover, with Pierre Cardin designing uniforms for the staff and gold cutlery and candelabras for first class passengers. 

On October 21, 1968, Aristotle married Jackie Kennedy – with Artemis acting as her sponsor. 

According to journalist and Kennedy historian J Randy Taraborrelli, protective Jackie – who was ‘obsessed’ with her family’s safety following the assassination of her husband in 1963 – used the apartment to keep a close eye on her daughter Caroline Kennedy, who was studying in London. 

In 1975, Jackie’s daughter Caroline was staying at the Campden Hill Square home of MP Sir Hugh Fraser, a family friend, when he was the intended target of an IRA bomb, which was placed under his car but exploded prematurely.

Afterwards, Caroline was evacuated from his residence and stayed for several days at the apartment at 47 Grosvenor Square, under the guidance of the American Ambassador, due to its proximity to the Embassy. 

Guests to the first floor apartment have also included Christina Onassis, Artemis’s niece, who owned a home in nearby Reeves Mews. 

The apartment building has a ground floor entrance foyer with two passenger lifts and 24-hour uniformed porterage.

Grosvenor Square is currently benefitting from a luxury makeover, with the former Canadian Embassy and US Naval Building being transformed back into luxury apartment buildings.

The former US Embassy is set to become a 5-star Rosewood Hotel with cafes and luxury boutiques.

The central garden square is also set to be transformed with a new landscaping scheme and enhanced public realm.

The formerly closed area in front of the US Embassy is being transformed into a public piazza fronting onto the Rosewood Hotel.

Prior to the sale, Mr Wetherell said: ‘With its iconic address, balcony and terrace and garden square views, this expansive Mayfair residence at 47 Grosvenor Square is the finest apartment in Grosvenor Square. 

‘This is a trophy property, which would serve as an excellent long-term investment and main London residence. 

‘Once dominated by diplomatic buildings, Grosvenor Square is currently being returned to its residential origins – its biggest transformation in a century – with buildings being converted into luxury apartments and new hotels.

‘Given this wider context, the apartment at 47 Grosvenor Square has the potential to become one of the finest residences in central London.’ 

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