A billionaire Qatari sheikh is restoring an 'urban palace' that could become London's first £300million mega-mansion, it was revealed today.
Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is believed to have bought the six-storey pile in Belgravia for around £150million and will carry out a refurbishment expected to double its value.
Forbes House is spread over an acre of some of the country's most valuable land sandwiched between Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park in central London.
Sheikh Thani, 57, who is worth around £1billion, already personally owns a large chunk of One Hyde Park - the Candy brothers' luxurious apartment block in Knightsbridge.
The Qatari royal family he is part of has bought up Harrods, the Shard, Chelsea Barracks and Canary Wharf in recent years with the capital earning the nickname 'Londoha'.
Thani's new Belgravia stately home has more than 20 bedrooms, a carriage driveway sweeping through its landscaped lawn and parking for 32 vehicles.
The Georgian mansion, previously owned by the billionaire Barclay brothers, was designed by Sir Robert Smirke - the creator of the British Museum - and has been an office block since the last residential owners left in 1941.
But planning documents reveal that the sheikh will again make it one of the world's grandest 'small urban palace' enjoyed by the rich and powerful 'the British Empire was at its zenith and as rich as it ever was'.
A heritage report submitted to Westminster Council and written by DIA Historic Buildings Consultancy says it would become 'a single family house of the highest quality'.
The document adds: 'There are few individuals who could/would be able to restore it while ensuring what is truly remarkable about it is both preserved and enhanced'.
A magnificent double staircase leads from the ground to first floor, with lifts from the basement to upper floors.
The building works, which already have planning permission and have started, will include two plunge pools in the basement with luxurious gym and Turkish bath.
The bottom floor will also have a cinema and a car garage with a lift suitable to move vehicles up and down from storage.
There will also be two floors for children, with games and TV room and two sitting rooms in the 50,000 sq ft super-mansion and 'his and hers' master bedroom suites on the floors below.
The Barclay brothers, who own the Daily Telegraph and the Ritz, put it on the market two years ago for £150million.
Twins Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, both 81 – who own the Ritz – bought the house for just over £33 million in 2013, offering them a potential profit of at least £117million on the sale.
Formerly the HQ of the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, the Barclays converted it to residential use and renewed the lease for 150 years but was largely empty.
They have sold its 148-year lease for £34m, according to the Standard, but the price paid for property was kept secret although it is believed to have made asking price.
The Sheikh will have paid around £22.4million in stamp duty and must pay ground rent of £17,000 a year to freeholder the Duke of Westminster.
Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani owns through his property development company Waterknights, which backed One Hyde Park but the Arab nation is buying up swathes of London, especially with the pound at a low level.
Qatari Diar – the state's investment arm – teamed up with UK property developer Delancey Estates to buy the Olympic Village in Stratford for £557million.
They also bought the US embassy building in Grosvenor Square in 2009.
The five-star Berkeley Hotel, also in Knightsbridge, was added to Qatar's portfolio in 2015 after it bought a 64 per cent stake in The Maybourne Group, which owns it.
That year, investors from Qatar also agreed to buy a majority stake in the company behind the world-famous Claridge's Hotel – where penthouses start at more than £4,600 a night - in Mayfair.
Another Mayfair hotel – the Connaught – is owned by hotel company Coroin, in which Qatar now holds a majority stake.
In 2015, Qatar Holding and Canadian company Brookfield bought the Canary Wharf Group estate for £2.6billion.
Read more: Fit for a sheikh — and his entourage: 25-bedroom London super-mansion could be the capital's first £300 million home | Homes and Property