The Gherkin, one of the most distinctive buildings on London's skyline, has been bought by a Brazilian billionaire. Joseph Safra is reported to have paid more than £700m for the 180 meter tower, which is officially known as 30 St Mary Axe, its street address.
The Norman Foster-designed building was completed in 2004 for Swiss Re. The insurer sold the building in 2006 at the height of the last property boom for £600m.
However, the buyers - a fund managed by Germany's IVG Immobilien and UK private equity group Evans Randall - had been in default for the past five years on the £395m they borrowed to fund the purchase.
Savills and Deloitte Real Estate were appointed earlier this year to sell the Gherkin and fielded interest from some 200 parties.
The Safra Group said: The acquisition of 30 St Mary Axe is consistent with our real estate strategy of investing in properties that are truly special, at the best locations within great cities.
While only 10 years old, this building is already a London icon that is distinguished from others in the market, with excellent value growth potential. We intend to make the building even better and more desirable through active ownership that will lead to a range of enhancements that will benefit tenants.
Swiss Re remains one of the largest tenants, occupying half of the 50,000 sq m of office space, along with law firm Kirkland & Ellis. The structure cost £138m and occupies the site of the former Baltic Exchange that was bombed by the IRA in 1992, killing three people.
Its design maximizes daylight and natural ventilation and it uses about 50% less energy than a typical office building of the same size. Each floor rotates five degrees from the last and the only curved piece of glass on the entire building is at the very top.
The Gherkin won the Royal Institute of British Architects' Stirling Prize in 2004 for its elegant and impressive” design.
The Safra Group runs banking interests in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia that manage assets worth more than 200bn. dollars. Joseph Safra, 75, is thought to be personally worth about 15bn dollars.