A New Zealand financier who bought Pablo Picasso’s former mansion on the French Riviera earlier this year at auction has two months to come up with $33 million after allegedly failing to come with the cash.
Rayo Withanage, a New Zealand citizen of Sri Lankan and Portuguese descent who grew up in Auckland, Bermuda, and Brunei, was the highest bidder at auction in June for Mas de Notre-Dame de Vie, the estate at Mougins in the hills above Cannes where the famous Spanish artist spent his twilight years.
But Dutch Achmea Bank selling the 15-bedroom estate, described as being one of the most spectacular and famous houses on the Côte d’Azur, put it back under the hammer Thursday because it said Withanage “hadn’t yet got together the funds” to complete the sale.
A local judge gave Withanage two extra months to come up with the money, however, after no other bidder came forward yesterday.
“We have been in discussions with him for a year. Let’s hope he gets over the finishing line,” AFP reported Maxime Van Rolleghem, a lawyer for Achmea Bank, as saying.
“We are disappointed. It is worth at least 30 million euros ($49.77m).”
Rayo Rahul Sperring Withanage is said to be one of the most influential financiers in Asia and the Middle East.
A resident of Bermuda and London, he is founder and chairman of Scepter Partners, a direct investment and merchant bank for sovereign investors. He is also a founder of The BMB Group alongside Prince Abdul Ali Yil Kabier of the Brunei royal family.
Withanage is listed as being a current director of Cytrinity (New Zealand) Limited, a company registered in New Zealand in 2003. Company records link him to a modest property in a quiet Avondale cul-de-sac.
Social media profiles say he’s Auckland born and studied at the University of Auckland before training as a mergers and acquisitions Lawyer at London School of Economics.
Aside from its meteoric price-tag, the attraction of Picasso’s former 20.1 million euro ($33m) home is obvious.
Picasso spent his last 12 years until his death in 1973 at the estate, which dates from the 18th century.
It was previously owned by the Guinness brewing family and was famed for being a regular summer holiday home for Sir Winston Churchill, who painted a number of works there.
“Picasso would often work until late in the evening or at night, and sleep during the day,” says Christie’s international real estate firm R365 in its listing.
“On this secluded estate, he found the tranquillity and inspiration for the numerous works of art Picasso produced here.”
The 3.2ha estate’s “substantial restoration” is all down to the last owner, who bought the property in a decrepit state.
It had stood empty for 30 years, since the death of Picasso’s wife, Jacqueline Roque, who killed herself at the house in 1986.
Since Picasso’s death, she had left everything in the house as it was. Even his reading glasses were where he left them.
Her daughter Catherine Hutin-Blay sold the estate to a Dutch couple, who renamed it the ‘Cavern of the Minotaur’ after the painter’s obsession with the mythical beast.
But they got into financial difficulties after carrying out extensive work on the property, adding a large pool, garages and a professional tennis court. It also comes with a wine cellar with space for 5000 bottles, 12 bathrooms, a pool, gym, Turkish bath, and orangery.
Source : New Zealand Herald