Gherkin bought by Safra Group: Meet the Brazilian-Lebanese billionaire behind the £700m deal

 
Kasmira Jefford
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The Gherkin is the latest London landmark to join the Safra family's growing property portfolio
The City's iconic Gherkin has been snapped up for more than £700m by the Safra Group, the investment giant controlled by Brazilian-Lebanese billionaire Joseph Safra.
Safra, which last month won a $682m (£430m) takeover battle for banana group Chiquita, said yesterday it had agreed to buy the 590-foot tower at 30 St Mary’s Axe from receivers Deloitte.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Safra is understood to have paid around £700m, exceeding the original asking price of £640m.
Deloitte’s real estate arm and Savills were appointed to sell 30 St Mary’s Axe this summer after previous owners Evans Randall and German firm IVG failed to strike a restructuring deal over its mounting debt pile.


The Safra family bought One Plantation Place in 2012 (Source: Wikimedia)

The pair bought the tower in early 2007 for £600m from insurer Swiss Re, which set a record at the time for a building in the City and was considered to be overpriced.
Based on the price paid in 2006, the building would now be worth around £742m, acc­ounting for inflation.
The Lord Foster-designed skyscraper located at the heart of the City’s insurance district is home to companies, including Swiss Re, which occupies around half of the building.
Safra said in a statement that the 10-year-old tower had “excellent value growth potential”.
The deal marks Safra’s latest foray into the London property market. In 2012, the Safra family bought One Plantation Place for £500m in what was the largest deal that year. The group also owns several buildings in the West End, including 47 Berkeley Square and 144 New Bond Street.


Joseph Safra attending Monaco law court in 2002 (Source: Reuters)

THE MAN BEHIND THE SAFRA BANKING DYNASTY

Joseph Safra is the fourth generation of the secretive family banking dynasty founded over a century ago in the Ottoman Empire.
After the empire’s collapse, the family moved its headquarters from Aleppo in Syria to Beirut in Lebanon, where they flourished lending to the merchant classes of the wealthy Sephardi Jewish community.
Safra moved to Brazil in the 1950s with his family after the emergence of the state of Israel and the start of persecution of Jews in Arab lands, where they started working by financing letters of credit for trade.
His late brother Edmond left Brazil and founded the Republic National Bank of New York in 1966 while Safra and his brother Moise, who died this summer, built up their business in South America.
The 75-year-old financier, ranked by Forbes as Brazil’s second-richest man, now runs the sprawling banking and financial empire with his three sons from its headquarters in Sao Paulo and New York.
Its flagship company is Banco Safra, one of Brazil’s 10 largest banks with over more than $50bn in assets.

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