Hindujas turn around Churchill’s OWO with £1.2 billion, foray into uber-luxe hospitality
In its new avatar, the 120 rooms and suites, including a Winston Churchill Suite, have been designed by French architect and interior designer, Thierry Despont, known for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty in New York as an associate architect in the ’80s, and transforming landmark buildings like The Getty Centre and Maison Cartier
London: The Hinduja brothers -- Srichand, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok – stunned the world in 2006 with the 13-16 Carlton House Terrace acquisition. A heritage structure, it was built in 1831, spread over 67,000 square feet in the City of Westminster, neighbouring Buckingham Palace. The family bought the property for £58 million from the Crown Estate and spent another £50 million in renovations before they could call it home in 2011.
Their next astonishing purchase was Britain’s Old War Office (OWO) at Whitehall, for £1.2 billion in 2014. Known for its classic Edwardian baroque interiors, the OWO has since been renovated for over five years, in keeping with the rich legacy and the historical architectural elements of the building, for £1.2 billion.
The brothers are acquiring historic and heritage properties in London, a game of Monopoly, buying not where the die rolls but where the eye goes.
Now repurposed into a luxury hotel called Raffles London at The OWO, it is all set to open in the spring of 2023. “The OWO is my greatest legacy to London for future generations to enjoy,” said Gopichand Parmanand Hinduja, co-chairman of the Hinduja Group.
Not only is the OWO the Hinduja Group’s first foray into hospitality business, it is also the first Raffles hotel and the first Guerlain Spa in London, exclusive to the Raffles London at The OWO too.
British architect William Young designed the building originally and the project was completed in 1906. The OWO is a Grade II listed building, which has witnessed innumerable world-shaping events – its 1,100 rooms and four kilometres of corridors, were used by Winston Churchill during World War II, leading Britain to wartime victory; Bond movie lovers will remember snapshots of this location in Skyfall, Spectre, License to Kill, A View to a Kill, Octopussy and No Time To Die.
In fact, James Bond, the fictional MI6 icon of espionage, was conceived at the OWO when writer Ian Fleming worked in Britain’s Naval Intelligence Service, acting as key liaison with the department, overseeing Operation Goldeneye.
In its new avatar, the 120 rooms and suites, including a Winston Churchill Suite, have been designed by French architect and interior designer, Thierry Despont, known for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty in New York as an associate architect in the ’80s, and transforming landmark buildings like The Getty Centre and Maison Cartier.
The 85 branded residences, a first for Raffles in Europe, complete with a heady mix of history, mystery and royal glamour, makes them the most expensive in London. They are priced upwards of £7.1million for a two-bedroom residence, £10million for a two-bedroom residence designed by Albion Nord and £14.25million for a three-bedroom residence designed by Angel O’Donnell. Both are prominent London-based interior design studios.
A four-bedroom residence on the fifth floor, is an ode to the espionage history of the building. It is accessed through the Spies Entrance, a door used by MI6 staff after covert missions, and the name has been retained from 1909 when the British Secret Service Bureau was established as a department of the War Office. It still makes for discreet arrivals and departures.
Philippe Leboeuf, Managing Director at Raffles London at The OWO confirmed the hotel’s opening, as he said, “This staggering piece of British history will be open to the public for the very first time from Spring 2023, thanks to the Hindujas’ tireless work in sensitively conserving this significant address, partnering with experts including English Heritage, MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) and EPR Architects.”
The acclaimed Italian-Argentine Chef Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur, a modernist cuisine restaurant, which he opened in 2006 in Menton, France, will recreate unique dining experiences set within the OWO’s most storied rooms.
Of the nine restaurants and bars at the OWO, Paper Moon, a family-run Italian restaurant founded by Pio Galligani and his wife Enrica Del Rosso in Milan, in 1977, will be the first independent one here.
This hospitality venture is the first of its kind in scale, spend and historical relevance, with an Indian business family restoring the history of a British landmark. It remains to be seen if the billions that The OWO has been bought, acquired and repurposed for, tempts the Hinduja family enough to make hospitality another key business for their group.