Ecclestone's girl in pole position to buy priciest home in the US
Gentle understatement has never sat comfortably with the sort of untrammelled wealth that comes from attempting to export elite motor racing to shady dictatorships such as Bahrain. Why else would Formula One magnate Bernie Ecclestone's 22-year-old daughter have just become the proud owner of America's most expensive family home?
Petra Ecclestone, who is occasionally described in print as the most spoiled girl in Britain, was yesterday named as the prospective purchaser of The Manor, a landmark property sitting atop five acres of the ostentatious Holmby Hills neighbourhood of Los Angeles. It has been on the market for two years, at an asking price of $150m (£92.6m).
The property, which measures 57,000 sq ft and boasts parking for 100 cars, will become a second home for Ms Ecclestone, who recently celebrated her engagement to Jamie Stunt, a 26-year-old entrepreneur. Last year, she acquired a £56m London home in a purchase also financed by her father.
In a subsequent "at home" interview with Grazia magazine, Ms Ecclestone said that she needed the expensive pad to accommodate her five dogs. "I need a garden for them and there aren't many properties in Chelsea or Belgravia with a private garden. Mum took me round to look at it and I fell in love."
Ms Ecclestone's new LA residence, which she intends to use to launch a career in fashion, is famed in Hollywood as the home of the late TV producer Aaron Spelling, who was responsible for Melrose Place, Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, Starsky and Hutch, and Beverly Hills 90210. Since Spelling's death five years ago, it has been inhabited by his widow, Candy.
TV crews invited across the threshold in recent years have reported the existence of a bowling alley, a beauty salon, several gift-wrapping rooms, and accommodation for five underservants, plus two butlers.
As the largest private home in Los Angeles County, it boasts more than 100 rooms, one of which is devoted entirely to flower cutting. In a newspaper interview, Ms Spelling once described it as "the best entertainment house ever", with a "kitchen where you can cook for two, or 800".
The Manor's main staircase in its entrance hall was inspired by Gone With the Wind. One of its most comfortable bedrooms is named the Prince Charles Suite, after the Prince of Wales who once slept there. Outside, there are koi ponds, swimming pools, tennis courts and a citrus orchard.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke news of Ms Ecclestone's acquisition, the sale of the sprawling property underlines the fact that although America's wider real-estate market is stagnating, and hundreds of thousands of homeowners are still losing their residences to foreclosure, the luxury end of the market remains in rude shape. Earlier this year, a Russian investor called Yuri Milner bought a Silicon Valley property for $100m, the highest-known price paid for a single-family home in the US.
The final amount paid by Ms Ecclestone has not been announced, and neither she nor Ms Spelling (who is "downsizing" to a $47m penthouse in nearby Century City) has yet commented on the sale. The celebrity news website TMZ reported however that they had agreed on a final price tag of around $75m, or half the original asking price.
That's more than enough for Bernie Ecclestone to afford, despite the fact that he separated from Petra's mother, Slavica, in 2009. He is estimated to be worth anywhere between £1.5bn and £4bn and for Petra's recent engagement party, flew the singer Rihanna to London to perform.
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