Prince Andrew sued for R142m over ski chalet debt
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Prince Andrew was mired in more legal woes as he and the Duchess of York face being sued for millions over claims they have missed payments on their luxury chalet.
The couple bought shares in the property in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier in 2014 for about R275 million.
But it is alleged they missed a deadline on December 31 by which another chunk of that sum was supposed to be paid.
In the deeds of sale, seen by the French-language newspaper Le Temps, about R106 million had been due. That figure is now R142 million with interest.
It understood the Yorks do not own the property outright, but simply bought a share of it. Now the original owner – who retains a share in the chalet – has run out of patience and started court proceedings. A source close to the Yorks said: ‘They (the original owners) have really gone for the jugular and want their money.’
Intriguingly, a friend of the duke last night said the couple had made plans to sell the chalet. The proceeds were intended to clear any outstanding debt, the source said, and that intention had been indicated to the previous owner.
That the legal proceedings had been made public had caused ‘some bafflement’, the friend added. Le Temps claimed
the money was outstanding ‘despite messages from Sarah promising that payment would be made’.
Law firm Etude de Ritz has been instructed by the owner to launch legal proceedings, the newspaper reported.
A spokesman for the duke said: ‘We can confirm there is a dispute between the two parties in this matter. The contractual details remain the subject of a confidentiality agreement and prevent further discussion.’
The duke and duchess, who divorced in 1996 but remain close, fly off to the Swiss Alps with their daughters – Eugenie, 30, and Beatrice, 31 – for a skiing holiday most years after Christmas.
Called Chalet Helora, the seven-bedroom luxury lodge previously boasted six full-time staff and was available to rent for more than R466 000 a week.
Said to be decorated with chic antiques, the master bedroom is draped in animal furs, and there is a 650 sq ft indoor swimming pool, sauna, sun terrace, boot-room, bar and lavish entertaining area. Neighbours include Sir Richard Branson and singer James Blunt.
In 2015, the Daily Mail exclusively revealed that Andrew and his ex-wife had secretly splashed out on the Swiss ski chalet.
They bought the property as a ‘family investment’, with the deeds listing them simply as Andrew York and Sarah Ferguson.
The chalet was split in two for the sale because, according to local regulations, it was too big for a sole foreign purchaser to buy outright. Legally, Andrew has the upper floor and attic space, Sarah the lower floor and basement. They share the land.
The purchase immediately raised questions as to how they could afford it.
Andrew is not known to have a vast private fortune, while Sarah had only recently managed to clear R106 million in debts she ran up through a series of disastrous business investments. It is thought it was financed with the R318 million proceeds from the sale of Sunninghill Park, the former marital home given to Andrew and Fergie by the Queen as a wedding present in 1986.
They lived on the 12-bedroom estate in Berkshire as a family, with the duchess staying on with the girls following the 1996 divorce. Fergie moved out ten years later before it was sold to Kazakhstan oligarch Timur Kulibayev in 2007 for well above market value.
Andrew spent about R159 million on improvements to Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, where both now live despite their divorce, meaning only half the sale proceeds would be left, at most.
A source close to the duchess confirmed to the Mail that she and Andrew had bought the chalet jointly as a ‘nest egg’ for their children. ‘Neither of them have their own property and wanted to buy the chalet as an asset to leave to their children,’ the source said in 2015.
Philippe Loretan, partner at Etude de Ritz, declined to comment when contacted.
The new legal proceedings add to 60-year-old Andrew’s woes.
The prince stepped back from all royal duties in November after a car-crash Newsnight interview over his friendship with the late US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
One of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Roberts, claims that when she was 17, she slept with the duke on three occasions at the financier’s behest. Andrew emphatically denies the allegation and that he knew of any wrong-doing by Epstein.