This is the World's Most Obscenely Expensive Penthouse
It’s just another day in sun-kissed Monaco, the supercharged playground of the super-rich. In the harbour, gigantic yachts are jostling for position, while, outside the casino, souped-up sports cars growl their way along the boulevards. But there is a new arrival to this hottest of global wealth hotspots. Rising above the orgy of oligarchs’ toys, the Odeon Tower now stands as the definitive beacon of “super prime” property. It is one of the tallest residential towers in Europe – topped with what is being marketed as the most expensive penthouse in the world.
For those who already have it all, the Odeon Tower has a little bit more. When it is completed next year, the penthouse will have its own gym, sauna, cinema, library, whisky bar and billiard room, plus a master bedroom the size of two and a half tennis courts – all spread over five double-height floors. There will be tables upholstered with the skin of stingrays and shelves crafted from ebony. Rooftop hot tubs will bubble next to green walls trickling with waterfalls. After dinner in one of the six different salons (prepared by staff in one of the four kitchens), your guests will ascend a sweeping marble staircase to your very own nightclub, complete with a backlit marble dancefloor. From there, they will be able to launch themselves down a curving slide, plunging two storeys into the open-air infinity pool below.
And the price tag for this skyscraping fun palace? Around £260m.
“This is for the serious oligarchs, the wealthiest of the wealthiest,” says Edward de Mallet Morgan, of estate agent Knight Frank, whose task is to find a buyer in his address book of what are known, in his world, as UHNWIs: ultra-high-net-worth individuals. It is his role to befriend the world’s wealthiest and become their luxury lifestyle therapist, advising on everything from superyachts to private jets, in the hope of clinching a property deal. And he is all too used to their stratospheric standards. One client’s wife recently turned her nose up at a place along the coast: “This is a millionaire’s house,” she said sniffily. “Show me the billionaire’s.”
We meet on the deck of Norman Foster’s new Monaco Yacht Club – a building as brash as the boats it serves – as the Monaco Yacht Show unfolds below us. The yachts, it becomes clear, are like bait for superprime buyers. “They come in swarms,” says De Mallet Morgan. “Where there are yachts, there are usually transactions going on and deals to be done.” So who is he lining up for the tower? “We’re talking about the sort of people who have half a dozen properties around the world already,” he says. “They probably have a country house, a place in the city, a ski chalet, an island in the Caribbean or a place in Miami, and perhaps an estate in Africa.” A pied-a-terre in Monaco completes the set: registered as the primary residence, it provides a handy way of dodging taxes on untold billions.
The principality has long been a haven for those with assets to hide, but the Odeon Tower is an entirely new phenomenon, the result of increasing pressure on the 2 sq km microstate. For 30 years, there has been a tacit ban on building tall, following the steroidal boom of luxury apartment blocks in the 1970s and early 80s. The prohibition led to an ambitious plan to extend into the sea: a Dubai-style peninsula had been proposed, providing an extra 15 hectares to accommodate the growing flood of flight capital, but Prince Albert blocked the plan in 2008 when the financial crisis hit (though a downsized version of the plan has since returned). So the only other option was to go tall.
The result, in the form of the Odeon Tower, is the kind of building Bond villains could only dream of. Clad in reflective blue glass, the stout girth of its two crescent-shaped wings rise up to sharply pointed blades, giving the top a serrated crown that lends it an air of menace. Verging on a parody of the Thunderbirds’Tracy Island, the tip was originally intended to open up, like the petals of a crocus, to reveal a helipad. But Prince Albert decreed it too risky, all too aware of the negative publicity a chopper crash atop this temple to Mammon would bring.
In this strange consensual dictatorship, where development deals happen behind closed doors, quite how the project came to pass remains a mystery. “We had never planned to build a tower,” says Daniele Marzocco, of the family company behind the €700m (£544m) project. “We proposed a villa for the site in 2003, then the ambition got bigger.”
So who exactly will live here? Twenty-six of the 250 apartments have already been sold, to a mixture of Europeans, while buyers of the upper duplexes and penthouse are expected to be Russian, or from the resource-rich Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan.
“At least half of our clients are moving to the state for security reasons,” says Marzocco, whose own father was kidnapped by the mafia in the 80s in Italy, prompting the entire family to up sticks to Monaco. Here, no street is unwatched by surveillance, and there are more police officers per capita than in any other country – and you can rest assured they won’t be investigating where all your money comes from.