Viscount Astor, step-father of Samantha Cameron and father of ground rent investor William Waldorf Astor, attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting on leasehold reform on December 14.
Sadly, he did not share his thoughts at the meeting, as he heard how unaffluent first-timer buyers are upset with doubling ground rents in Bolton. Or, how lawyers like Philip Rainey QC would shrivel the ground rent business by closing off numerous income streams with a few – perhaps long overdue – reforms.
Lord Astor’s son Will, who worked for six years with mercurial, wrongly-arrested ex-tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz, runs Long Harbour, a fund of £700 million of residential freeholds.
A former director – and presumably investor in Long Harbour – was Canadian Frank Sixt, the billionaire executive director of Hutchinson Whampoa, based in Hong Kong and one of the biggest overseas investors in British property. It also owns the Three mobile phone network and Felixstowe container port.
Long Harbour manages many of the Adriatic Land ground rent businesses, although the ultimate beneficial owners are hidden behind nominee directors.
Viscount Astor may or may not be a “ground rent grazer”, but he has enough on his hands with the Scottish government making disobliging inquiries into his offshore-owned Tarbert estate on the Hebridean island of Jura.
Last year, he was accusing Nicola Sturgeon and her friends of staging “a Mugabe-style” land grab in wanting to place a million acres in public ownership by 2020.
So land law and its reform is an area of interest – 20,000 acres of interest, in the case of Tarbert.