Bahraini King Pays £120M to Buy UK Estate From a Saudi Prince

The King of Bahrain has paid more than £120million to buy a Cotswolds estate from a Saudi prince who bought it for £11m in the 1990s, making him the new owner of its 18th-century country house, 167 acres of parkland, 39 cottages, and a Norman parish church.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, a friend of the British Royal Family, purchased Glympton Park in February from Prince Bandar bin Sultan, 72, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the US.

The monarch, 71, who attended £34,245-a-year The Leys School in Cambridge in his youth, is now listed on Companies House as the new owner of the property alongside his Cambridge-educated son, Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, 51.

Prince Bandar is sitting on an enormous profit from the deal – first reported by Bloomberg – since paying a fraction of the sale price to purchase Glympton from the Australian property magnate and convicted fraudster Alan Bond in the 1990s.

He is believed to have spent £42m on renovations, including building a replica English pub inside Glympton Park House – the estate’s nine-bedroom mansion – and installing obstacles and bullet-proof glass on the driveway to stop intruders.

The prince had landing rights for his private jet at nearby Brize Norton, a secure RAF airfield which also caters for the global super rich, and is a brief drive away from the property.

The estate’s new owner, King Hamad, is a personal friend of the Queen and in 2013 gifted her a pair of pure-bred Arabian horses while joining her at the Windsor horse show.

The sale underlines the growing popularity of country estates during the pandemic, creating what a Savills broker described as the most active market for stately homes since the 1980s.

The estate agent, which has 320 staff in its department dedicated to country estates, has sold 21 valued at £15m-plus since the first nationwide lockdown. This compares to just one such property sold in 2019.

Of the 19 estates sold last year, around half went to foreign buyers, according to Crispin Holborow, from Savills’s Private Office.

Glympton Estates Ltd, the company that runs the country pile in the Oxfordshire countryside near Woodstock, claimed £25,000 from the government’s furlough scheme in December last year, the Guardian reported.

The company manages domestic staff for the house and runs its accounts.

Prince Bandar was previously embroiled in claims of corruption relating to BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence company, which was accused of secretly paying him £1bn in bribes in return for setting up the £40bn al-Yamamah arms deal in the 1980s – a claim he denied.

The arms deal was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office before it called off its investigation in 2006 on the orders of the attorney general Lord Goldsmith, who cited ‘national security’ concerns.

Glympton was owned by the heirs of 17th-century baronet and Whig politician Sir Thomas Wheate until being sold by the family in 1944.

A house has occupied the site of the present mansion since the 16th century or earlier, but the current property mainly dates back to the 18th-century and was substantially remodelled in the 19th.

Prince Bandar’s Eton-educated son, Prince Khalid, was in 2015 said to be in negotiations with Jeremy Clarkson to build a high-performance race track at the estate.

Neighbours of one possible site, a former RAF airfield near the village of Enstone, were horrified by the idea of it becoming a race track and the scheme never materialised.

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