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Friday, March 18, 2011

This Home Can Be Yours ... for $19.4 Million

The Forbes family hopes to sell its U.K. mansion, Old Battersea House. You'll probably never own it, but you can look around.

Forbes Family Selling 300-Year-Old London Mansion

The Forbes family has decided to unload their historic London home, Old Battersea House, which Malcolm Forbes purchased in the early 1970s. (See our photo gallery of the Old Battersea House.)

Situated along the Thames river, just on the other side of Chelsea, the 10-bedroom mansion with five reception rooms is listed by Savills for 12,000,000 sterling pounds, which is about $19.4 million. Yes, this is how the wealthy live (and for more on that topic, see "Forbes Richest People: Where and How They Live")

The listing for Old Battersea House says this is a "unique opportunity to buy a piece of English history," and so it is. Since it was built in 1699, the property, set behind electric gates and a partially walled garden, has been graced by kings, princes and presidents. Elizabeth Taylor spent her honeymoon with seventh husband Larry Fortensky here. 


Built on Tudor foundations in the late 17th Century, Old Battersea House has reasonably had many owners over the years. In the early 20th Century it was saved from demolition by Colonel 
Charles G. Stirling and his wife, Wilhelmina, who rented the house. Mrs. Stirling remained living at Old Battersea House until her death in 1965 just shy of her 100th birthday. For the next five years the home sat empty and neglected, with a collapsing roof, until it was acquired by Malcolm Forbes, who hung numerous pieces of original art on its walls.

Son Christopher Forbes stated in an essay in a 2003 Christie's auction catalog that his father saw the home, and, in spite of its "sorry state," could see the possibilities of its "handsome proportions and its unique riverside location" and took it on a 99-year lease.

To repair it cost $750,000 -- quite a bit of money for the 1970s. The family typically would spend about 12 nights a year there. However, Malcolm Forbes once said in New York magazine's "The Most Happy Millionaire" article, "Our London office keeps the house pretty busy."

Off a galleried landing on the first floor are five grand double bedrooms all of which either have an en suite bathroom, or share one. The second floor has another five double bedrooms and three bathrooms, one of which has a jacuzzi bath and a sauna. Over the years various changes have been made to the house, including the installation of a modern kitchen.

According to the New York Times obituary on Malcolm Forbes, the media mogul and founder of Forbes, died in 1990 at the age of 70 of a heart attack while asleep in his Far Hills, N.J., home just a day after returning from Old Battersea on his private jet.

The home with baroque hallways, paneled drawing rooms, sweeping stairs, oak doors and floorboards, has housed his massive collection of Victorian art for decades. Although not publicly available, over the years the sons, Steve, Kip and Chris have sold some of the paintings, "The walls do not look naked but happily congested," said Kip Forbes.

Although none of the Forbes family members appear on its own list of "Richest People in America" or "World's Billionaires," the family still does pretty well for itself. However, for a taste of million dollar deals gone wrong, check out our Foreclosed Mansions gallery.

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