Another crown jewel for the Saudi Crown Prince
Spread over 57 acres of landscaped parks, the Chateau Louis XIV with its gold-leafed fountains, hedged labyrinths, and marbled statues sold for over $300 million in 2015. While Fortune magazine called it the "world's most expensive home", no one knew who the buyer was. Now, its ownership has been traced back to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne.
Chateau Louis XIV is but one of several extravagant acquisitions made by the Saudi Crown Prince - he also recently acquired a $500m yacht and a $450m Leonardo da Vinci painting. On top of these, the Eight Investment also purchased a 620-acre estate in Conde-sur-Vesgre, known as Le Rouvray. According to permit records, the estate is being transformed into an apparent hunting compound.
The acquisition of the chateau was carefully shrouded by shell companies in France and Luxembourg. The story of its ownership was pieced together by The New York Times through interviews and documents. They found that the shell companies were owned by Eight Investment Co., a Saudi company managed by the Crown Prince's personal foundation. The yacht and the painting was also purchased in anonymity.
The Crown Prince's shady acquisition of Chateau Louis XIV, along with his other acquisitions is perhaps because of his politics. The Prince is sweeping down on corruption and extravagance by Saudi elites at home, and has carefully built an image of himself as a social reformer. However, despite preaching austerity at home, the Saudi Prince's spending habits seem to be sprouting new wings abroad.