Anyone currently scouting for a new career would be well advised to head to Spain. For there, on a hilltop 40 miles north of Madrid, if you play your cards right, you might just talk yourself into the cushiest job in the world: staffing a completely empty house.
There are qualifiers. The house isn’t just a house; it is basically a castle. Nor is it simply empty; despite being fully staffed and patrolled by security to the tune of an alleged $515,000 per year, the house has never even had a visit from its owner. More than that, according to the Daily Mail, he doesn’t actually know where it is. More than that, the house—with its decades-old kitchen appliances still wrapped in the cellophane they came delivered in—has only ever been visited once, by the owner’s son, 17 years ago. And he left without staying the night.
Perhaps it would help to learn that the owner is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, world’s fourth-richest royal, and—perhaps unsurprisingly—a man currently being sued for reckless extravagance.
Despite being fully staffed and patrolled by security to the tune of an alleged $515,000 per year, the house has never even had a visit from its owner.
The accusation comes as part of a long legal action between Sheikh Khalifa and Lancer, the estate-management company that ran his property portfolio until 2017. The summary of the case is that Khalifa claims Lancer “siphoned off” about $40 million worth of his assets, and Lancer claims that Khalifa still owes them $12.5 million in unpaid bills.
Indeed, according to the Daily Mail, the Spanish castle was only discovered when Lancer’s co-founder Andrew Lax figured out where it was, stopped by, and found himself being met by a welcome committee of its 15-strong staff, lining up outside like they were awaiting royalty.
And, honestly, wouldn’t you forget about something as trifling as a fully staffed Spanish castle if you had everything Sheikh Khalifa has? This is a man who owns the world’s biggest yacht, complete with an indoor pool. This is a man who provided the name for the world’s tallest skyscraper, and who renamed a 170-year-old imperial French theater after himself. A man who, according to the Daily Mail, buys properties wherever he goes because he dislikes hotels. A man who employs a permanent beard trimmer. A man who built a palace on the highest point in the Seychelles, and amassed property worth $34 million on an enclave overlooking Cannes, before abandoning it when he was told he couldn’t turn it into a palace.
The 2016 Panama Papers data leak revealed that Sheikh Khalifa owns 140 properties in London alone, and has amassed one of the single biggest offshore-property empires in Britain. One such property is a $6 million mansion in southwest London. The sheikh never fully occupied the mansion, since it was deemed too small to house all his staff and security personnel. However, a former bodyguard wrote in his memoirs that Khalifa spent some of his time there shooting at his own security staff with a gold-plated air rifle, so perhaps his lack of residency is no bad thing.
A man who buys properties wherever he goes because he dislikes hotels.
However, the best revelation from the court papers is the story of Ascot Place, a Grade II–listed mansion neighboring Windsor Castle. Sheikh Khalifa purchased the sprawling property for a then record $20.7 million, realized he didn’t like the water quality, dug a tank “as big as a multi-story car park” underneath it—a source told the Daily Mail—filled it with water shipped directly from Évian-les-Bains, and then decided not to live there.
The lawsuit between Lancer and the sheikh has its darker aspects, but, on the whole, this is among the more lighthearted sheikh-based lawsuits to roll through London’s High Court. Given that one of the others involves Sheikh Khalifa’s prime minister, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a man accused of orchestrating the abduction of his own daughters, it comes as quite a relief to hear about a dotty old billionaire with an unstoppable thirst for mineral water. In fact, in a world on fire, it’s refreshing to hear about something as simple as the unchecked spending of the ultra-rich. And, yes, I am only saying that because I want a job turning down bedcovers in his abandoned Spanish castle.
Stuart Heritage is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL based in Kent, U.K.