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Indian businessman restores Raj era British building to its pristine glory

Sri Prakash Lohia, who is married to steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s sister, spends £50 million to renovate 1770 built Sheridan House at London’s famous Mayfair district.

LAKSHMAN MENON  London | 31st Aug 2013

nce Mayfair was the London residence of Robert Clive, the man who founded the British Raj. Now the Raj has come to Mayfair. Sri Prakash Lohia, who parlayed a plastics business into a £2 billion personal fortune, has been dubbed the "Maharajah of Mayfair" after he spent an estimated £50 million restoring his new Mayfair pad. Not that the term "pad" does justice to Sheridan House. Built in 1770 for General John Burgoyne, the man whose disastrous military campaign is believed to have lost Britain its US colonies during the American War of Independence, Sheridan House is arguably the grand district's very grandest house. But, as the Sunday Times reports, over the last century, it was used as offices, and by the time it was bought for Lohia in 2008 its opulent interior had fallen into complete disrepair.

The newspaper reports that "Lohia recruited a small army of historians, designers and craftsmen to restore the grade I-listed property to its former glory". The house's "lavish interiors originally laid out by the renowned architect Robert Adam have been painstakingly recreated from historic drawings and an old Christie's auction house catalogue". The restoration work took five years to complete. But Lohia believes the finished product is even more magnificent than when it was first built. "it was well worth the wait," The Sunday Times quotes him as saying.

The entrance hall has been newly laid in Italian marble and leads on to two drawing rooms originally designed by the renowned architect, Robert Adams, a music room and a dining room that seats 16 guests.

In concession to the contemporary tastes of the Indian tycoons, the restored house now also features a gym, spa, sauna, staff quarters, a "swimming pool and cinema in the basement and a "vertical garden" crawling up an internal courtyard wall". And if that is not enough accommodation, Lohia also has use a mews house he has built at the rear of the property which has its own conference facilities above and a garage containing his car collection, including a Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

Lohia, who is 61, was born in Calcutta but moved to Indonesia, where he had citizenship. A strict vegetarian, who according to The Sunday Times, "is a shy and cerebral man — [who] owns one of the world's largest collections of old books and coloured lithographs", he is largely unknown in India. But he has impeccable Bollygarch connections; he is married to the younger sister of Lakshmi Mittal. But even at Mittal's wealth has deflated by £2.7 billion to £10 billion according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List, Lohia's fortune has been steadily increasing. His family now owns a Gulfstream jet and a 200ft super yacht called Sea Pearl. But if Lohia is the Maharajah of Mayfair, the Hinduja brothers are the Emperors of London. They have spent £100 million on buying and restoring no less than four adjoining properties on the Mall near Buckingham Palace, so that every time the Queen sweeps into her residence, she must first pass the Hinduja residence. Clive of India would have had an apoplectic fit.

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