De Savary intends to turn Luton Hoo into the Skibo of the South

By Matthew Beard
Thursday 16 January 2014 03:04
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Peter de Savary, the property magnate who turned Skibo Castle in the Scottish Highlands into a weekend retreat fit for Madonna and Jack Nicholson, is hoping to do the same with Luton Hoo.

He is thought to be preparing a £16m bid for the 18th-century Bedfordshire estate, intending to turn it into an exclusive members' club. Luton Hoo's attraction is likely to be boosted by its use in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Skibo is where Madonna married Guy Ritchie. Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas and Sean Connery are among club members who pay £3,000 a year.

Mr de Savary, 58, also owns Stapleford Park, a stately home in Leicestershire, bought for £4m in 1996 as the English branch of the Carnegie members' club, Cadogan Gardens in Knightsbridge and two leisure clubs in America.

He has drafted plans for Luton Hoo with John Broome, his new partner in the residential and sporting clubs business, Carnegie Clubs Group, to create the Luton Hoo Club.

Luton Hoo is Grade I-listed, in 1,000 acres of parkland with a 50-acre lake landscaped by Capability Brown. It was first owned by the 3rd Earl of Bute, prime minister to George III. The house includes state and reception rooms on three floors including a 140ft former library and a private chapel. The estate also boasts a Grade II*-listed stable block, an entrance lodge, formal gardens and three carriage drives.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh spent their wedding night and several anniversaries in Luton Hoo as guests of the former owner Nicholas Phillips, the Duke's godson. In 1991 Mr Phillips committed suicide when a business venture failed. His widow, Lucy, sold the house and some contents including unique masterpieces collected by Sir Julius Wernher.

In 1998 Luton Hoo was sold to the Elite Hotels group for a reported £8m to £10m. Elite made a planning application to convert it to a 115-room hotel and leisure club.

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