Christian and Nick Candy, the property moguls behind some of central London's most exclusive developments, added the most expensive property deal in the UK to their already impressive portfolio yesterday when the Ministry of Defence handed over Chelsea Barracks as part of a record-breaking £959m deal.
The concrete 12.8-acre barracks, home to the Coldstream Guards for more than 40 years, was handed over to the two brothers from Surrey following a low-key military ceremony to mark the acquisition.
The duo, who mastermind their £9bn property empire from tax exile in Monaco, bought the barracks in a joint venture with Qatari Diar, part of the Qatar government's investment arm. When the sale was first announced in April last year property experts were staggered at the near £1bn price that the brothers and the Qataris were willing to pay for it – more than three times the £300m the defence ministry had originally been hoping for.
The Sixties barracks, long considered an eyesore in the heart of one of west London's most exclusive districts, will be demolished and replaced with the type of luxury apartments for the super-rich in which the Candy brothers specialise.
Planning proposals are still subject to final approval by Westminster City Council, but it is understood that the developers hope to link the luxury apartments, many of which are expected to fetch anything up to £5,000 per sq ft, to another exclusive Thameside development bought by the same consortium earlier last year. It is understood that neighbouring Grosvenor Waterside, a hidden Victorian dock that cuts in from the Thames next to Chelsea Bridge, will be linked to the redeveloped base by a pedestrian boulevard to create a super "riverside estate" for those with enough money to pay for it.
The development has caused waves of excitement to reverberate through those working in the luxury property market in London, which now regularly fetches higher prices per sq ft than Manhattan or Hong Kong.
Clifford Chance, the London law firm that advised the Qatari side of the joint venture over the sale, describes Chelsea Barracks as "arguably the best residential development site in Europe and this is considered to be the most prestigious land sale in London in over a decade".
But unlike many of the Candy brothers' recent investments, the Chelsea Barracks development is believed also to include a number of affordable houses alongside the 650 luxury units. The Greater London Authority has described some of their previous luxury developments as a "missed opportunity" for the city, which has a crippling shortage of affordable houses, and a plethora of luxury developments for the ultra-wealthy.
Christian Candy, 33, and his brother, Nick, 31, have fast gained a reputation for pulling off some of the finest property coups in recent years. Their various groups are currently redeveloping 265 luxury apartments in Bloomsbury's Noho Square, which they bought for £175m but which is expected to eventually be worth more than £1.5bn.
An even more lucrative deal is the One Hyde Park development in Knightsbridge, which the brothers bought for £150m but is expected to net up to £2bn when the 86 luxury apartments they are building finally go on sale in 2010.