A blockbuster case making its way through the London High Court is shedding light on the finances and extravagant, secretive lifestyle of the world’s fourth richest royal.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Emir of Abu Dhabi, is suing Lancer Property, an estate management company that ran his $7 billion London property empire for 16 years until 2017, claiming the firm siphoned off over $40 million from the estate.
Lawyers for the Sheikh’s companies, according to the Daily Mail, claim Lancer Property’s fees were “excessive” and that there was a “dishonest arrangement” with the former head of the Sheikh’s private office.
Lancer, including founder Andrew Lax, deny the allegations and are countersuing for $16 million in unpaid fees for managing 140 properties in London’s wealthiest neighborhoods, as well as other properties around the world — claiming the Sheikh was an inveterate and compulsive spender.
The High Court heard about “reckless extravagance” regarding the Sheikh’s assets which include about 140 properties in the most affluent areas of London, including Mayfair, Marylebone, Knightsbridge and Kensington.
Among the claims the court heard, which were recounted in the Daily Mail:
- The Sheik owned a castle-like property in Spain that he had never visited and didn’t even know where it was. When Lax surveyed the property, he was greeted by 15 full-time staff who claimed Lax was the first visitor in 17 years. In the never-been-used kitchen, appliances were still wrapped in packaging and even though the beds in the 11 bedrooms had never been slept in and the many bathrooms never used, the sheets and monogrammed towels were still laundered weekly. Maintenance of the home was a whopping $600,000 a year.
- Ascot Place, the mansion near Queen Elizabeth’s Windsor Castle, was bought in 1989 by the Sheik for $22 million. Although it boasted 400 acres of land, a lake, a grotto and outbuildings, the Sheik spent millions upgrading the property even further — installing huge water tanks so the water flowing through the entire house would all be Evian. Lancer claimed in court that “apart from the occasional daytime visit,’” the septuagenarian Sheik never actually stayed overnight.
- The Sheik also travels exclusively on “his own private 747 jumbo jet” and brings along a separate 737 jet for his 100-person strong entourage which includes a “personal beard trimmer”, according to the Daily Mail.
- Other houses purchased in London include Ham Gate in Richmond Park, bought in 1980 for $8 million. Although huge, Ham Gate was “too small” for the royal and his entourage so the Sheik tried to buy a neighboring property “significantly above the market value” — but the owner refused to sell. In prep for one party at Ham Gate in 2013, “staff were allegedly given four months to landscape the grounds, cutting down mature trees and replacing them with new pre-grown ones. They were also required to buy several nearby homes to accommodate guests for the night of the party and the subsequent night,” the Daily Mail reported.
- The Sheik also owns Azzam, the largest private ocean-going yacht in the world, boasting indoor and outdoor pools, a helipad and guest rooms for 36 people. It clocks in at 590 feet.
- Lax claims the Sheik has instructed him to buy homes around the world for even short stays as the profligate Sheik does not like hotels.
- Lancer and Lax also plan introduce documents with the “purported signature” of Sheikh Khalifa which they claim “did not match known examples but rather appeared to match that of his brother Sheikh Mohammed”, the Daily Mail reports.
Since suffering a stroke in 2014, Sheikh Khalifa ceded day-to-day control of the UAE’s affairs to his half brother, Sheikh Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, known by his initials MBZ, who is the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. A similar situation is happening in Saudi Arabia where King Salman has ceded day-to-day control to his son and heir Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.
MBS has also tried to publicly crackdown on excesses while secretly spending billions on houses, boats, art and other luxuries.
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