The Monaco Royals Giving Monte Carlo A Makeover
Andrea and Pierre Casiraghi, sons of Princess Caroline and the grandchildren of Grace Kelly, are well-regarded in the local real estate market because of their family business. But now their impeccable connections and knowledge are helping them to establish a new chapter in Engeco, the Monte Carlo developer founded by their late father.
While most developers might find it challenging to shift eight off-plan apartments priced at around €70 million (US$78.2 million) and up – without any marketing – this has not thrown the Casiraghis.
Over the last three years the Casiraghis have been involved with the construction and sales one of the principality’s most dramatic, and expensive condo developments to date.
“There is a certain cachet about keeping the project below the radar of marketing or an estate agent. It shows just how exclusive it really is,” explained Irene Luke, director of Savills’ Monaco office and a resident of the principality for two decades.
It began with the establishment of the vehicle FPMC (Fine Properties Monte Carlo), in partnership with Parma-based construction firm Pizzarotti Group, when they purchased the abandoned headquarters of the former Banca Commericiale Italiana in 2011. The plan? To turn the site into a super luxury condominium next to the Carré d’Or, Monaco’s prestigious Casino Square, a trophy neighbourhood if ever there was one.
So was born La Petite Afrique. Due for completion in Winter 2016, the development comprises nine apartments of around 700 square metres each. Overlooking the gardens of the Monte Carlo casino, the building is designed by Brazilian “starchitecht” Isay Weinfeld with two apartments per floor and lush vegetation filling each terrace. “It looks like a vertical rainforest from the outside,” said one source. There are also several underground parking floors. The duplex penthouse, which comprises two floors and a swimming pool, is believed to have been sold for around €200 million.
According to an estate agent close to the situation, all of the apartments have been snapped up within months of launch, leaving only the fifth floor available. Asking prices start from €100,000 (US$112,000) per square metre, said the agent, who added that she believed sales had been signed for around €85,000 (US$95,000) per square metre.
The dearth of luxury new-build residential property in the city-state has helped to fire demand for ultra high-spec property. According to Nicola Leonardi, founder and editor in chief of THE PLAN magazine in an interview: “In the principality of Monaco…new-build over the last 40 years has unfortunately not always been outstanding, indeed often of a surprisingly poor standard. Isay Weinfeld’s project…provides highly live-able luxury residential units, while at the same time fitting discreetly into its urban context.”
According to Savills, Monaco has remained a great investment throughout the credit crunch due to lack of supply. “Monaco is one of the few places in the world that shares characteristics of a world city, centre of commerce and top tier ‘recreation destination’, providing its residential markets with a broad demand base,” said Savills analysts.
While transaction numbers and average values stand below their 2007 peak, sales by total value were 23 percent above their former high last year. A centre of global wealth, Monaco has the world’s highest density of ultra wealthy individuals, and is the sixth most important world destination for their direct real estate holdings. According to the Wealth-X and UBS World Ultra Wealth Report 2014, Monaco has 210 ultra wealthy individuals who have a combined fortune of US$25 billion.
“As a real estate investing ‘safe-haven’ Monaco has seen increased activity – focused at the very top end of the market,” said Savills. Demand for a limited pool of stock has pushed ultra prime prices to the highest globally, at €91,000 per square metre, or US$12,000 per square foot.
This is not the Casirgahis’ first step into luxury residential real estate. Engeco also played a part in the construction of the La Belle Epoque house developed by the UK’s Candy Brothers development duo. The 30-room house was formerly the home of philanthropist Edmond Safra, and was redeveloped and sold to an unnamed investor from the Middle East, for around €240 million (US$268 million) in 2010.
Today Engeco has an annual turnover of tens of millions of euros, mainly known for developing 70-plus Monaco retail and commercial landmarks. These range from the lavish Hermès boutique based on the Avenue de Monte-Carlo, to the Stars N’ Bars sports cafe overlooking the F1 Racing track. Engeco was also behind the development of the Yacht Club de Monaco, designed by world-famous architect Lord Norman Foster. On Engeco’s executive board sits Fernanda Biffi Casiraghi, Pierre and Andreas’ paternal grandmother, and their uncle Marco is the president.
But it is the younger Casiraghis who are now bridging the gap into luxury residential property, and they’re not stopping at development. Mindful of the needs of their jet-setting billionaire clients, in 2013 Andrea bought a stake in London-based property management and concierge company, Rhodium.
Launched in 2011 by former surveyor, Dean Main, Rhodium has over £1.5 billion (US$2.3 billion) worth of property under management and a portfolio of London’s most prestigious clients, including Finchatton, British Land, Glebe, Brockton Capital, Mountgrange and Investec.
Rhodium’s raison d’etre was the lack of good property management available. “I was shocked at how bad property management was in London. I would sell a £15 million (US$23 million) apartment to a high net worth individual and the porter on the door wouldn’t even look up when they walked in. So we decided to set up our own company.”
Through Rhodium, Main was in contact with royal families and business tycoons, and he met Andrea through a mutual friend, Alexander Dellal, the grandson of property tycoon Jack Dellal. “Andrea wanted to meet me personally, which was unusual because typically royal families have a wall of people. But after sitting down and hearing more about the business, he wanted to get involved.” Andrea bought a 10 percent stake in Rhodium and Dellal also purchased a 10 percent holding. The idea is to for Rhodium to provide its immaculate service to Engeco’s luxury property buyers.
“Wealthy foreign buyers have ploughed over £1 billion (US$1.54 billion) into the prime central London residential market over the last 18 months,” explained Andrea Casiraghi in an email statement. “These individuals are buying up London’s super-flats, estates and other property related assets, such as hotels. I chose to invest in Rhodium as this new wave has remained poorly-serviced and there is a clear niche to provide a level of management, combined with hospitality, expected by the super-rich. In Monaco, we are accustomed to providing to the needs of these individuals.”
Casiraghi is hoping to expand Rhodium into Monaco next year with a view to have them service La Petite Afrique, as well as other ultra luxury developments that he has in the pipeline.
But for how long he can keep the word from getting out, remains to be seen.
*A version of this article was originally published on 19 March 2015.