The Gherkin, one of London’s most recognisable skyscrapers, has been bought by the billionaire Brazilian banker Joseph Safra, in a deal thought to be worth more than £700m.
Safra, who has a $14.9bn (£9.4bn) fortune according to Forbes magazine, bought 30 St Mary’s Axe – better known as the Gherkin – from the receivers. No price was disclosed but the Financial Times said Safra paid £726m(£) for the 180m Norman Foster-designed tower.
“While only ten years old, this building is already a London icon that is distinguished from others in the market, with excellent value growth potential,” Safra Group said in a statement. “We intend to make the building even better and more desirable through active ownership that will lead to a range of enhancements that will benefit tenants.”
The building was put up for sale earlier this year with a guide price of £650m after its previous owners, private equity firm Evans Randall and German property investor IVG, defaulted on a loan. They bought the tower from reinsurer Swiss Re – the largest tenant – for £600m in 2007.
The Gherkin is the second-tallest tower in the City of London and the sixth-highest in London. The glass dome at the very top of the building – which boasts 360 degree views of London – can be hired out for business functions and weddings. Tickets for a New Year’s Eve party in the dome cost £290 per person for people who are not members of Searcy’s, the club that runs the top three floors of the Gherkin.
Safra, 74, was born into a rich banking family in Lebanon. The family moved to São Paulo, Brazil, in 1952. Joseph Safra founded Banco Safra, now Brazil’s eighth biggest bank in 1955.
Safra Group recently announced a $1.3bn deal to buy US banana giant Chiquita in partnership with Brazilian juice company Cutrale.
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