Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India (SII), which makes the Covishield vaccine, has reached a deal to buy the most expensive house to be sold in London this year.
Poonawalla, who has a net worth of $13.8 billion according to Forbes, has agreed to pay a whopping £138 million (RS 1446 crore) for the 22,788 sq ft property, which has an adjoining guest house and access to one of Mayfair’s secret gardens.
The deal, which was reported by the Financial Times, will make Aberconway House the second-most costly house ever sold in London, after 8 Rutland Gate, a 20-room mega-mansion that was bought by Chinese billionaire Hui Ka Yan for £210 million in 2020.
Poonawalla, who is married to socialite Natasha Poonawalla and has two sons, will acquire the mansion through Serum Life Sciences, a UK subsidiary of his family-owned SII. He will use it as a base for his company and family when they are in the UK, according to a source quoted by CNBC.
The report also said that the mansion will serve as a company guest house that will help SII in hosting events, donors, tech partners and accessing global opportunities that were not possible from India.
The seller of Aberconway House is Dominika Kulczyk, a Polish heiress and philanthropist who inherited the property from her father, Jan Kulczyk, who was once the richest man in Poland and died in 2015.
Aberconway House, which was built between 1920 and 1922 in a neo-Georgian style, was originally owned by Henry McLaren, the 2nd Baron Aberconway, a prominent industrialist and politician.
The mansion later became the headquarters of the Rank Organisation, a British film production company that had the rights to the popular Carry On series. In the 1980s, Westminster Council ordered the property to be returned to residential use.
Poonawalla’s purchase of Aberconway House is a rare example of a mega-deal in London’s prime property market, which has been hit by Brexit, tax changes and political uncertainty in recent years.
Many ultra-rich buyers have preferred to rent rather than buy in the city’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, but Poonawalla has bucked the trend with his record-breaking acquisition.
Poonawalla, who was named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2021, has been praised for his role in producing and supplying affordable vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
He has also faced challenges, such as a fire at his Pune factory, a legal dispute with AstraZeneca over delivery delays, and threats from politicians and businessmen who wanted to secure doses of Covishield.
Poonawalla, who moved to London in April amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in India, said he felt “pressure and aggression” from some quarters and feared for his life.
He returned to India in May after the situation improved.