Virgin Limited Edition (VLE), flamboyant British billionaire Richard Branson’s luxury hospitality property portfolio, has agreed to buy Franschhoek wine farm Mont Rochelle for an undisclosed amount.
Located atop a hill in the Klein Dassenberg mountains, with a 22-room hotel on 40ha of land including a vineyard planted in 1994, Mont Rochelle becomes the second luxury property to be listed in VLE’s global portfolio.
Among VLE’s global retreats are Ulusaba private game reserve near the Kruger National Park, Necker Island with its luxury catamaran and small submarine in the British Virgin Islands, Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco, The Lodge in Verbier, Switzerland, and Mahali Mzuri, a tented safari camp in Kenya.
Mont Rochelle had belonged to Rwanda-born telecoms tycoon Miko Rwayitare and German hotelier Erwin Shnitzler. Rwayitare picked up the property in 2001, before moving to Johannesburg in 2006.
He died aged 65 after complications from surgery in 2007. His interest in Mont Rochelle transferred to beneficiaries of his estate.
Rwayitare also previously owned Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, which was the setting for the events featured in the film Hotel Rwanda.
Pam Golding Properties Hospitality CEO Joop Demes said it had Mont Rochelle on its books for some time, but would have ended up selling it at a significant discount to the asking price of more than R80m.
“The vineyard and hotel had been making a loss. I would say it went for half the asking price, at a generous estimate.”
Demes said other properties in the area were selling quickly for higher prices as new inventory for four-and five-star hospitality properties in Cape Town dried up.
“The winelands provide good value for money, below what Cape Town has been trading at.”
Mont Rochelle is expected to close temporarily for a multimillion-rand renovation programme.
According to VLE spokesman Claudia Moore, Virgin became interested in the property last year.
“We’ve seen a rise in demand for Ulusaba, and felt it was a good opportunity to introduce another property offering a different experience.”
• This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times