Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Updown Court Goes Down in a Blaze of Foreclosure

About 20 or 30 miles outside of London in the swank and semi-rural suburb of Windlesham, Surrey, sits the (in)famous Updown Court, one of the largest and most garish private residences in all of the United Kingdom. Updown Court, spec-built and on the market since at least 2006, was reportedly seized by the Irish government in a foreclosure proceeding after property developer Leslie Allen-Vercoe failed to keep up payments on the approximately £50,000,000 mortgage secured by the estate.

¡, niños, escándalo!

When the Irish economy swirled down the financial terlit last year the government took over control and ownership of the failed bank that lent Mister Allen-Vercoe tens of millions of pounds. That, puppies, is how it came to be that the Irish government now owns Updown Court, an extremely high-maintenance asset we're quite sure the Irish government is not keen on keeping in their property portfolio.

The self-made son of a model and a bricklayer, Mister Allen-Vercoe bought the 58-acre estate out of receivership in 2002 for around–we're told–£13,500,000. In order to facilitate the cost of the property purchase and the completion/construction of the resulting monumental mega-mansion Mister Allen-Vercoe reportedly took a hefty £40,000,000 mortgage from an Irish bank. The interest payments alone were many times reported to come to around £2,500,000 per year.

Most reports previous reports say that when the Mister Allen-Vercoe acquire the property there was an existing house from the 1940s that had been gutted by fire in 1987. However, one of the children claims that at the time of Mister Allen-Vercoe's 2002 purchase the property already included the shell of the monstrous mansion–designed by Scottsdale (AZ) architect John B. Scholz–that was commissioned by a previous owner/developer who went belly up before completing the colossal crib.

Mister Allen-Vercoe re-engaged the mcmansion specialist Mister Scholz to complete Updown Court, the result a tumescent mansion that stands four floors tall and measures in at more than 50,000 square feet. When the bloated and blinged-out Updown Court–described by Mister Allen-Vercoe as "neo-Californian," whatever that is–was completed in 2006 it was heaved and hoed on to the market with much publicity and a blistering asking price of £75,000,000. According to a few quick calculations on Your Mama's rickety currency conversion contraption that's comes to about 145,00,000 U.S. dollars at 2006 rates.

The palatial and–let's get real children–obscenely crass and decidedly pompous pile is entered through imposing gilt-trimmed wrought iron gates that swing open electronically to a marble driveway oft reported to have cost Mister Allen-Vercoe around £3,000,000 pounds.

A porte-cochere, held aloft by an army of classic but turgid Corinthian columns, signifies the entry where double oak doors lead into a cavernous airport terminal-sized entry and reception area that features a triple-height ceiling, a sweeping double staircase (plus an elevator), two walk-in cloak rooms, two powder poopers and three sitting rooms. Two smaller sitting rooms–one outfitted with a behemoth built-in bar–flank a voluminous central sitting room with towering arched windows and a scalloped balcony reportedly modeled after one in deceased fashion designer Gianni Versace's former house in Miami (FL).

The opulent hotel lobby-like entry/reception area is, in our humble and utterly meaningless opinion, so capacious it reeks of a desperate and perplexing need to smack guests and Chinese food deliverymen hard across the face with pecuniary audacity. Your Mama requires a nerve pill just to look at the pictures, hunnies, and we suggest you partake of the same before diving too deeply into the photos and floor plans for the extraordinary and extraordinarily cocky mansion.

The humongous house is divided into east and west wings. To the east, on the ground floor, a three room suite with half bathroom makes for snazzy and room home office. Behind the office suite the sprawling master suite encompasses a sitting room with fireplace and French doors to a rear terrace, separate bedroom with second fireplace, wee kitchenette, and his and her bathing and terliting facilities with towel storage room. Surprisingly stingy closet space is limited to just two not particularly large walk-ins in the bathroom(s) and a third smaller closet in the hallway that runs between the bedroom and bathrooms. A glass elevator descends directly from the master suite to an indoor swimming pool and spa designed for the exclusive and private use of the master and mistress of the mega-mansion.

The west wing on the ground floor includes more intimate but still gigantic semi-public rooms that include a library, paneled sitting room, banquet hall/dining room. The family's private quarters are, for the size of the house, quite modest and include a well-outfitted kitchen open to a circular breakfast room and an octagonal family room with built-in entertainment center. The family's casual rooms open to the piazza-like terraces that overlook the grounds. At the end of long corridor that runs like a spine through the center of the west wing a double set of doors open into a glass-walled air-lock space that opens into another sky-lit indoor swimming pool ringed with Corinthian columns and complete with circular spa, massage room, party-size sauna and male and female dressing rooms with bathing and terliting facilities.

The second floor contains 8 family bedroom suites, some with separate sitting rooms, most with fireplaces and all with walk-in closets, lavish marble bathrooms and access to one of the seven balconies. One more floor up a prairie-like landing separates two self-contained two-bedroom and 2.5 bathroom guest suites that share a rooftop terrace with infinity edged swimming pool and spa. Yes, puppies, there is indeed a third swimming pool on the fourth floor terrace at Updown Court.

In addition to the two indoor swimming pool areas, the rabbit-warren like basement area houses a dizzying array of sports and entertainment areas that include a horseshoe-shaped fitness room with adjacent male and female changing rooms and bathrooms, home cinema, wine cellar, two-lane bowling alley and a snooker room that overlooks a glassed-in squash court.

Extensive service areas are also contained in the basement and include a walk-in vault, communications/security room, laundry facilities, panic room, industrial catering kitchen with walk-in freezer, half a dozen storage rooms and a granite-floored underground garage with parking for at least seven cars. The grounds, mostly wooded but with acres of manicured lawns and gardens include wide terraces, a private pond, lighted tennis court, equestrian facilities and a yet another swimming pool.

The estate also includes a gatehouse with a couple of ground floor flexi-use rooms for security and/or staff use, a full kitchen with breakfast area, conservatory, two upstairs bedrooms that share a bathroom and two additional powder poopers on the ground floor.

Extensive staff accommodations are contained in a detached complex divided into three sections: One leg of the L-shaped complex encompasses a four car garage, giant storage room, laundry facilities with shower room, and an estate manager's office with en suite facility. The smaller of two staff cottages offers three bedrooms–each with private pooper, an eat-in kitchen and a sitting room tucked under the eaves on the second floor. The larger staff cottage, attached to the smaller one by a covered patio, contains six bedrooms–each with private bathroom, a kitchen that's open to a large large lounge/living/dining room and a second floor sitting area.

We spent some time with the floor plans (above) we had on file from an old Savills' listing for the property and by Your Mama's count, the mall-sized main mansion contains a total of 13 bedrooms, 14 full bathrooms, 8 powder poopers and 4 changing rooms with bathroom facilities.

Combined with the 11 bedrooms and 11 full and 2 half bathrooms contained in the gatehouse and staff complex, Updown Court includes a heart stopping grand total of 24 bedrooms, 25 full and 10 half bathrooms plus the four bathrooms in the changing rooms of the indoor swimming pools. That, mons pets, comes to (at least) 39 terlits on the property, a number large enough to require at least a pair of full-time minimum wage workers whose only responsibilities are to scrub and polish toilet bowls.

Although there were few interested parties–and none it seems willing to sign on the deed's dotted line–Mister Allen Vercoe held firm to his sky-high and obviously optimistic asking price (about $145,000,000). However, Updown Court was recently re-listed with a probably still too optimistic price tag of $123,000,000. Anyone want to guess what price the Irish government will eventually get for Updown Court when they finally unload the white elephant?

listing photos: Updown Court
floor plan: Savills

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