Skip to main content

Hugh Grosvenor in London, October, 2013. The 25-year-old instantly inherited the title along with one of the most valuable real estate portfolios in the world after his father’s sudden death.John Stillwell/The Associated Press

Until a couple of days ago he was known simply as Hugh Grosvenor, a 25-year old account manager at a London company called Bio-bean which specializes in turning coffee grounds into biofuel.

But when his father, Gerald Grosvenor, the sixth Duke of Westminster, died suddenly Tuesday evening, Mr. Grosvenor instantly inherited the title along with one of the most valuable real estate portfolios in the world and a fortune estimated at more than $14-billion.

Now, as the seventh Duke of Westminster, Mr. Grosvenor will oversee the Grosvenor Estate, a family business that owns around 120 hectares of land around Buckingham Palace, encompassing expensive boroughs such as Mayfair and Belgravia. Among the Estate's holdings is One Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, which housed the Canadian High Commission for more than 50 years. The Canadian government held a 999-year lease on the property, and sold the lease in 2013 to a developer from India for $530-million.

The Estate also has property developments in Vancouver, Calgary, the United States, Britain, Asia and Europe. In total it manages £13.1-billion ($22.1-billion) worth of property, and the duke's inherited family wealth has been pegged at around £8.3-billion, making him the third-richest man in Britain.

The sixth duke died at the age of 64 after becoming ill at his Abbeystead Estate in Lancashire, northwest of Manchester. He had inherited the title in 1979 but the family's roots in real estate date back nearly 1,000 years, to 1086, when William the Conqueror gave lands around Chester to Hugh Lupus, le Gros Veneur or master hunter. The Grosvenors still have a 4,000-hectare estate and mansion in Chester known as Eaton Hall.

The elder duke insisted that his children, three daughters and one son, attend what in Canada would be called public schools, and Hugh studied agriculture at Newcastle University. He worked for the family company before joining Bio-bean earlier this year.

His father once said that Hugh had "been born with the longest silver spoon anyone can have, but he can't go through life sucking on it. He has to put back what he has been given." In a later BBC interview he said: "In Hugh's case I would be delighted if he took over the responsibilities, because with the responsibilities come many rights, and they are indefinable between the two."

The younger duke has largely stayed out of the limelight except in 2012, when his father threw a lavish party at Eaton Hall, estimated to have cost as much as £5-million, to celebrate his 21st birthday. The festivities – with a "black tie and neon" dress code – included performances by comedian Michael McIntyre and London hip-hop artists Rizzle Kicks. Prince Harry was among the 800 guests.

"The party was simply amazing – a birthday and a party I will never forget," the seventh duke told the Chester Chronicle at the time. "It is the beginning of a new era in my life and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead."

The duke has kept a low profile ever since, but his connections to the royals have tightened. In 2013, Prince William and Catherine named him a godfather to their son Prince George (the duke's mother is a godmother to Prince William) and Hugh's oldest sister, Lady Tamara, is married to one of Prince William's best friends, Edward van Cutsem. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sent condolences to the duke on Wednesday, as did the Queen.

The duke takes over the family company at a tricky time. High-end property values have been falling lately because of increased taxes on second homes and the country's vote on June 23 to leave the European Union. Prices for some luxury properties in parts of central London fell 14 per cent in July, and there are concerns more foreign investors will pull out of the market. Commercial property has been hit even harder, and several property funds recently suspended trading because of soaring redemptions from investors.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct