In perhaps the biggest residential property transaction in the country, industrialist Cyrus Poonawalla is paying an eye-popping Rs 750 crore for a US government-owned palace property called Lincoln House at Breach Candy in south Mumbai. He told TOI that he plans to use it as a family home.
The two-acre, sea-facing property housed the American consulate for several decades before it relocated to the city’s new business district of Bandra-Kurla Complex four years ago.
Lincoln House, formerly known as Wankaner Palace, was built in 1938 by the Maharaja of Wankaner (in central Gujarat). It is currently listed as a grade III heritage building.
The property has a large piece of open land in its sea-facing backyard, which currently houses a tennis court and a small garden patch.
In 2011, the US government had set a reserve price of Rs 850 crore for the property, but found few takers.
“No builder was interested to buy Lincoln House,” said Poonawalla, adding, “There is no development potential on the plot because of its heritage value and other restrictions. So developers backed out.”
Poonawalla added that his family did not appoint any global property consultant or broker to manage the deal. The US government had earlier retained DTZ international property advisors as its exclusive representative.
“The negotiations were initiated by my son Adar,” he said. The property will be used as a family home, but Poonawalla said extensive renovations will have to be carried out first because large sections of the palace were used as office space.
He said it would be difficult to say when the family would move in. “A lot of paperwork needs to be completed first. That may take time.”
Poonawalla, who lives in Breach Candy, was searching for bungalow properties including luxury apartments in the same locality for the past two years, before finally zeroing in on this landmark property.
Poonwalla was ranked by Forbes in 2015 as India’s 11th richest person with a net worth of $6.6 billion (about Rs 43,700 crore). His businesses include the Serum Institute of India, a biotech company. He is also known for his large stable of horses and cars.
In 2012, Tata Housing Development Company (THDC) had emerged as the frontrunner for Lincoln House, and it had almost matched the reserve price of Rs 850 crore. However, the deal did not progress further because of regulatory issues.
Property sources said most big developers found the price too high because the development potential of the plot is limited by coastal regulation zone (CRZ) restrictions and the heritage tag attached to the property.
The mega-deal comes just days after industrialist Aditya Birla paid Rs 425 crore for a bungalow property called Jatia House on Malabar Hill.