The kings ransom

Written by Dilip Bobb | Updated: Oct 28 2012, 07:00am hrs
The trouble with living life in the fast lane is that you get to the other end awfully fast. Now its time to pay the piper. Or bagpiper, as the case may be.

Vijay Mallya, the King of Good Times, has run up some heavy bills and his net worth has dropped below $1 billion, but that sounds less daunting when you tot up his personal assets and the bling he surrounds himself with. Take the stuff he wears daily. Theres the huge, diamond studded VJM, bracelet on his right hand, an equally huge diamond, ruby and emerald pendant of Lord Venkateshwara around his neck, the solitaires that dangle from his ears and the vintage Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch. All worth a tidy fortune, enough to pay quite a few salaries at Kingfisher.

Indeed, the total worth of his personal toys could buy a small country in todays economic environment. His private corporate jet, the ultra-luxurious Airbus A319, is actually in the name of CJ Leasing (Cayman) Ltd, based in the Grand Cayman Islands, a tax haven. The aircraft, refitted to Mallyas ultra luxe standards, cost him close to R250 crore. Then there is his $100 million megayacht, The Indian Empress (He also owns a smaller yacht, The Indian Princess).

It can accommodate up to 32 guests at sea. The yacht was custom made for the Qatar Royal Family in 2000 and sold to Mallya in 2006. It has 16 cabins across three levels, three suites and two master staterooms. Theres an elevator, helipad, gym, beauty salon, massage room and medical suite. Guests have access to a Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, and even Elton Johns baby grand piano. The paintings are by Renoir, Picasso and Dali.

In Monte Carlo and Istanbul, his parties on board the yacht are the hottest ticket in town. She requires a 30-member crew and also boasts a garage for two vehicles for ports where cars can be driven straight onto land.

Choosing which cars to take along is a head-scratcher. The ones he drives in India cover every luxury brand, from Rolls, Bentley, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW to the sportier Audi (R-8), Aston Martin DB9, Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Jaguar and McLaren. Collectively, they would be worth over R50 crore. His collection of some 250 vintage cars is actually priceless and includes some beauties like one of the only 40 Jaguar XJR15 race cars ever built, a 1913 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, one of the rarest cars in the world, a 1955 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gull wing and a 1925 Sunbeam, the one that broke the land speed record, and these are just a few of his classics. Many are housed in a private museum in Sausalito, California, the seaside resort town in the San Francisco Bay area where he is actually known as a media baron!

He owns Marinscope Newspapers, a chain of free weekly papers that includes the Novato Advance, San Rafael News Pointer, Ross Valley Reporter, Mill Valley Herald and Sausalito Marinscope. Sausalito is also where his wife and daughter live in a mansion spread across 11,000 sq ft purchased by Mallya for $1.2 million and now worth five times that. His neighbours include Robert Redford, Tiger Woods and Serena and Venus Williams.

Mallya owns some 25 properties across the globe, the most exclusive of which is the island of Sainte-Marguerite, off shore from Cannes. The property is known as Le Grand Jardin, or The Grand Garden and was reportedly bought for $60 million. He also has a penthouse in one of New Yorks most fashionable addresses, the Trump Tower, on Third Avenue. Mallyas appetite for expensive properties in premium locations literally knows no boundaries. He bought the luxurious Clifton Estate in Johannesburg for $8.4 million, in the citys most expensive street, Nettleton Road. The four-storeyed mansion comes with a breathtaking view of Clifton beach. He also owns the Mabula Game Lodge set in one of South Africas finest private game reserves in South Africa.

For Mallya, there are no castles in the air, all on the ground, two in fact, in the UK. Stowe Castle, near Silverstone, where his F1 racing team is based, and another in Scotland. That is in addition to his estate in Berkshire and a townhouse in upscale Holland Park in London, where he was holed up last week. In India, his sprawling villa in Goa, next to the Taj, that stretches from the main road to the beach, has a market value of R40 crore.

There is also the 400-acre Kunigal stud farm outside Bangalore and Kingfisher Towers in the city, his home base, where the 72 high end apartments for sale start at R20 crore each.

Mallya may be in serious financial straits, thanks to Kingfisher Airlines, but at night, lying on his monogrammed bed linen, he can draw comfort from the fact that his personal assets across the world are worth a kings ransom.

The writer is Group Editor, Special Projects & Features, The Indian Express