- London’s most notorious pocket of luxury real estate is a mile-long road of mansions known as “Billionaires Row.” It has a reputation for money, scandal, murder, and secrecy.
- Toprak Mansion, sitting at 46A The Bishops Avenue, was built by extravagant Turkish entrepreneur Halis Toprak in the 1990s.
- It was the scene of an epic celebrity party when it set a new record as the most expensive home ever sold in the UK, after changing hands in 2008 for £50 million ($US75 million.)
- This post is part of an interactive series by Insider profiling Billionaires Row.
The most jaw-dropping of the 66 mansions on London’s lavish Billionaires Row is Toprak Mansion, at number 46A.
Built by extravagant Turkish entrepreneur Halis Toprak in the 1990s, Toprak Mansion is eye-catching in the way architects and estate agents try to avoid.
It is garish, perpetually unoccupied, and stylistically mismatched to the other houses on the road, formally named The Bishops Avenue.
Toprak, who made his fortune in construction, kitted his 30,000 sq-ft Grecian-style mansion – topped with a green copper roof – with a Turkish bath that can hold 20 people, an 80-foot dining room, and a pool spanned by a translucent glass bridge.
It was nicknamed “Top Whack Mansion” by the British media for obvious reasons.
When Toprak put it on the market in 2008 and it became the most expensive home ever sold in Britain, going for close to £50 million ($US75 million.)
Toprak only spent a total of two days in the mansion, according to Trevor Abrahamshon, the estate agent who sold the property. Toprak never swam in the pool, he said.
He was too busy trying to evade capture by the Turkish government, which came after him and ultimately seized multiple assets when he defaulted on debts.
Toprak’s company, Toprakbank, was liquidated in 2001 by the Turkish regulator the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey.
The 2008 sale of Toprak Mansion was a seminal moment for Glentree Estates, the real estate firm which brokered the deal.
They organised a once-in-a-lifetime party to mark the occasion, with 700 guests.
“We decided that the sale of this house was so significant, we had to have a party,” long-time director Trevor Abrahmsohn told Insider from his second home in Palm Beach, Florida.
“And because it is so stately, we had to have a political icon as our guest of honour.”
“Our guest of honour was [former Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev. We invited Thatcher but she wasn’t well enough to attend.”
According to Abrahmsohn, Gorbachev flew in on a private jet.
“He was very warm and inviting, and so I told him: ‘My US friends would have us believe that Reagan outspent the USSR – which is what ended the Soviet state.'”
Gorbachev said: “No. It wasn’t. It was the American suppression, with Saudi Arabian help, of the oil price.”
There ended the conversation. But Abrahmsohn said there was plenty of entertainment from the other guests.
They included Sunib Cowell, Dani Minogue, Louis Walsh, and Cheryl Cole, all at the time judges of reality TV show “The X Factor.”
Cowell, as Abrahmsohn recalls, “couldn’t get in as his name wasn’t actually on the door.” Cowell’s representatives did not return an email requesting comment.
“Oh, and Alexander Lebedev came, and a whole host of Russian luminaries,” Abrahmsohn told Insider, referring to the Russian oligarch.
“With the finest wines and caviar, it was a really glittering occasion.”
After the sale the new owner’s identity remained secret for many years, until it was revealed to be Kazakhstani billionaire Hourieh Peramaa.
As a 17-year-old, Peramaa fled Kazakhstan and walked barefoot to an Iranian refugee camp, her home until she married a wealthy Iranian doctor.
Over the next 60 years Peramaa built up a £1 billion ($US1.3 billion) property empire.
After the ink had dried and the party abated Peramaa (or more likely her staff) pulled down the gold lettering spelling “Toprak Mansion” and replaced them with letters spelling “Royal Mansion.”
Peramaa also launched plans to up the square footage by 19,000 to 49,000 and for a beauty salon, helipad, squash court, spa, and 35-seat cinema.
Peramaa’s daughter, Yassmin, told the Evening Standard in January 2008 that she was making weekly trips to Italy to discuss ideas with a famous interior designer.
It is not known whether the upgrades were made, as Insider found no records of planning application listed with Barnet Council, the local authority.
The high profile list of names associated with Toprak Mansion did not end with Gorbachev.
In November that year, the former head of Kazakhstan’s post-Soviet spy agency, Alnur Musayev, claimed to The Times of London that the mansion was actually owned by the then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and that Peramaa was simply a front. (Nazarbayev stepped down in 2019.)
Hossein Ghandehari, Peramaa’s son, denied it, but said his family does have a personal relationship with Nazarbayev.
The Royal Mansion is currently owned by Velocity Investment Holdings Limited, a shell company based in the British Virgin Island and South Africa.
In the past, it has also been registered to Hartwood Resources Company, also in the British Virgin Islands.
- Read more:
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- The grand home of Britain’s first porn baron, who quit school at 15, built a media empire, then sold it
- The Russian financier’s home hit by one of the city’s most lucrative burglaries then ravaged by fire
- Salman Rushdie’s one-time fortified safe house at 9 The Bishops Avenue
- A steel tycoon’s ‘Summer Palace’ with 12 bathrooms and a basement pool
- Heath Hall, the mansion-for-hire that Justin Bieber rented for $US140,000 a month
- Greek fashion tycoon’s home that became a Reddit-famous murder scene on New Year’s Day 1985