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Ares Confirms Purchase Of Famous City Building As New Site For The Wolseley

The Wolesley

Ares Management has confirmed that it has bought the property at 68 King William St. in the City of London, which will house a second site for celebrity-favourite restaurant The Wolseley.

Private-equity fund manager Ares said in a statement that it had teamed up with developer Black Mountain Partners to buy the 68 King William St. property from Saudi Arabian investor Al Rahji Invest. Bisnow first revealed the deal in May.

The 98K SF building was previously partly occupied by department store House of Fraser, and partly by serviced office company Regus. The House of Fraser store closed last year, meaning the building had to be refurbished.

The Wolseley will occupy the ground floor, while the remaining floors will be taken up by Pure Gym and Spaces, the coworking offshoot of Regus. All openings are subject to planning approval.

It is the first expansion beyond its Mayfair home for The Wolseley, the eatery loved by celebrities like Kate Moss and Emma Watson and the business world alike. Ares and Black Mountain are looking to tap into the demand for high-end restaurants that has seen The Ned become an instant hit in the City.

Black Mountain will act as development manager on the scheme, in its first London deal. The company has an interesting background: It was founded by Oliver Corlette, an Australian entrepreneur who served 10 years as managing director at Porto Montenegro, where a former Soviet naval base was turned into a luxury marina that is now a popular spot on the super yacht circuit.

68 King William St.

“The acquisition of an asset of this stature and profile is a signal of our intent,” Corlette said in a press release. “London’s extensive infrastructure, deep talent pool and world-class lifestyle and cultural offering will always ensure it is a compelling place to live and do business. Any short-term turbulence will pass.”

The freehold 68 King William St. was built in 1921 and was originally the headquarters of the Guardian Assurance Co. and an early home of Lloyds Bank. Its prominent position directly in front of the northern end of London Bridge meant it was sometimes referred to as the “Gateway to the City”. Its three-sided clock with a gold owl on top, the symbol of Guardian Assurance, and a copper-domed Portland stone cupola are highly distinctive features.

It was used as offices until 1990 and then lay vacant until 2000 when it was redeveloped behind the original facade by London & Regional. House of Fraser opened in the building in 2003. Al Rahji Invest bought it from L&R in 2012 for about £65M, with the building sold so that L&R could use the money raised to pay down debt that had matured.

The price paid was not disclosed, but the last valuation of the building was £75M, according to Companies House documents.

When Al Rahji bought the building it would have thought it was a very solid investment — House of Fraser’s lease was supposed to run until at least 2033. But when the department store exited the lease Al Rahji decided to sell rather than take on the repositioning of the building itself.