CLIVEDEN, the country home of the Astor family and the place where John Profumo notoriously met Christine Keeler, could be the latest national treasure to fall into foreign hands.
The Cliveden group, which owns the Berkshire residence as well as the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath and the Cliveden Town House in Chelsea, announced yesterday it was in takeover talks after being approached by a potential bidder.
The development comes weeks after the Savoy Group was bought for pounds 520m by Blackstone, a US investment company.
It is the Americans who are leading the race to buy Cliveden. Meditrust, a US property group, has emerged as front-runner. However, it may face competition from other US property companies such as Starwood and Patriot whichhave used their special tax status to launch acquisition sprees in recent years. Several UK hotel groups are also understood to be interested,raising the prospect of a bidding war.
Sources close to the group suggest that John Lewis and John Tham, who co-founded Cliveden, are keen to sell and have been encouraging buyers to make an offer. Both stand to become millionaires.
Cliveden's shares rose 12p to 91.5p valuing the group at pounds 41m.
Cliveden, which was at the centre of the Profumo scandal, is part of British political history. Formerly the home of a Prince of Wales, three dukes and three generations of the Astor family, the house has been turned into a hotel, which is set in 375 acres of National Trust park and gardens.
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