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James Murdoch, seen here in Idaho in 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
James Murdoch, seen here in Idaho in 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Media baron Murdoch’s son is building a central B.C. family retreat Add to ...

James Murdoch, the son of billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has purchased acreage in a remote corner of central British Columbia and is building a family getaway.

The 450-acre property is listed under the name of a numbered company with James’s wife, Kathryn Murdoch, listed as its director, and a New York address.

Rupert Murdoch is chair of the family-run News Corp., which owns 21st Century Fox, Dow Jones, New York Post, HarperCollins and Fox News. James Murdoch, 44, is chief executive officer of 21st Century Fox, described as an up-and-coming mogul in his own right by Britain’s The Independent earlier this year.

The Murdochs would not discuss the purchase. However, a New York-based source “familiar with the deal,” who spoke on condition of anonymity because he didn’t want to attract further media attention, confirmed the purchase and said the property is intended for recreational use.

“They love the area, they are passionate about the area, and they think it’s beautiful,” he said. “There is no grid, there are no roads. It’s a remote piece of property, which is why it has its own water. He has no current plans to move there. It’s a recreational property for them.”

Legally, the property is three separate lots with a hot spring and access to a lake and river that could generate a 70-megawatt hydroelectric power project. The Murdochs purchased the properties in the Bella Coola Valley in 2013 for $1.3-million, according to a property search. The combined properties had been listed for sale as an exclusive listing for $1.65-million. The lots have a combined assessment value of $1,456,400, according to 2017 B.C. assessment data.

The oceanfront property is located on an inlet west of the town of Bella Coola, and is approximately one hour by boat, with only boat or float-plane access. The listing describes a six-room cabin, a two-room waterfront cabin, two one-bedroom self-contained cabins, a 1,300-foot landing strip, a 100-foot dock for large boats and float planes and a floating restaurant that seats 25. The water is deep enough for a cruise ship, at a depth of 100 feet, and abundant with trout, salmon, halibut and crab.

Pictures show a two-level cedar building with cedar plank walls and a modestly decorated interior.

“There are two main living structures and they are adding two small ones on stilts,” said the source.

There had been rumours of a B.C. property purchase from the British press, although details of the purchase were not known. The source shot down a British media report that suggested the Murdochs were looking to build an “end of times” self-sufficient compound in British Columbia to escape the “Trumpocalypse.” He said the Murdoch purchase was simply motivated by a love of the province.

However, it’s also become a global trend for rich businessmen to buy “bolthole” properties, which are in stable, beautiful countries that can be used as an escape from political turmoil.

Earlier this year, a story in The New Yorker described extremely rich Americans seeking properties for refuge, such as former Facebook manager Antonio Garcia Martinez, who bought five forested acres in the Pacific Northwest.

Jack Ma, who is the founder of China’s Alibaba e-commerce company, and is worth about $50 billion (U.S.), told the New Zealand Herald that at least 20 of his colleagues had retired to New Zealand.

Brian Rushton, Century 21 Canada’s executive vice-president, says his brokers are receiving an increasing number of inquiries from wealthy Americans since Donald Trump became President. They’re also seeing an increase in U.S. traffic to their websites. Mr. Rushton said it’s too early to be certain if U.S. buyers will make the move, but there are indications of interest.

“Just after the results of the election, our U.S. traffic on the websites increased upwards of 10 per cent, and 60 per cent of that traffic was coming out of California,” he said.

“[Brokers] are seeing a lot of what we call tire-kickers, a fair number of Americans asking questions. They are getting calls from as far as Florida, and as close as Washington state, about general things, like, ‘My U.S. dollars, which are worth 30 per cent more today in Canada, combined with, ‘I’m not too happy with what’s going on with the political situation.’”

The Murdoch source said the Murdochs are not seeking refuge, nor are they seeking to speculate, as so many other foreign investors who buy property in British Columbia do.

“Really, this is a reflection of their love for the property and passion for the outdoors,” he said. “They know and love B.C. I remember him showing me the pictures when they first bought it.

“This is not an investment property. And if you look at the timing … it exists apart from whatever the trends are of the moment.”

 

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