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Mt-Rochelle

Richard Branson buys premium SA wine estate

Not only does he plan a multimillion-rand revamp of the hotel, he also plans to invest in the vineyard and winery as well as work with a winemaker of international renown to create high-quality wines, reports Financial Mail.

Branson is the second major foreign investor to see value of late in the food and wine region of Franschhoek in the Western Cape.

Over the past year, Indian billionaire Analjit Singh has bought three adjoining Franschhoek farms — Dieu Donné, Van Ortloff and Klein Dassenberg — for roughly R80m. He also purchased a substantial stake in the 2013 Platter’s winery of the year, Mullineux Family Wines.

Having bought the most notable properties on the slopes of the Klein Dassenberg mountain, Branson and Singh will essentially become neighbours. Locals have already begun referring to the narrow Dassenberg road as “millionaires’ mile”.

The Mont Rochelle purchase has been conducted through Virgin Limited Edition, Branson’s portfolio of luxury retreats. It includes Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands and Ulusaba private game reserve near the Kruger National Park.

“Apart from the attraction of [Mont Rochelle] being located in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, we have seen an increasing demand for our SA property, Ulusaba, and felt it was the perfect opportunity to introduce another property and completely different experience to our portfolio,” says Virgin Limited Edition spokesman Claudia Moore.

She says Branson plans a “multimillion-rand renovation programme” to the 32,5ha Franschhoek property and 22-room thatched hotel. The intention is to close the hotel in May for refurbishment with a view to reopening in August this year.

The farm cultivates its own grapes and wines are made on the estate.

The sale of the farm follows the death of the previous owner, Rwandan-born businessman Miko Rwayitare. Moore declined to disclose the purchase price but it is widely thought to be well below the initial asking price of R80m.

Source: Financial Mail

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