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Windlesham
When Updown Court in the UK village of Windlesham, Surrey, was put on the market for £75 million ($116 million) six years ago, its owner, Leslie Allen-Vercoe, described it as the most expensive house in Britain.

However, with no buyer found for the mansion, Ireland's National Asset Management Agency was preparing to reappoint receivers to take control of the estate. And today the Irish government was preparing to seize ownership of the massive, 103-room mansion in south-eastern England after Allen-Vercoe, 67, defaulted on a £50 million ($77.5 million) mortgage.

The loan is understood to have been extended by the bank Irish Nationwide, which collapsed during the financial crisis and saw many of its loans transferred to the Irish government.

Set in 11 acres of gardens and 46 acres of woodland, it has 24 en-suite bedrooms, five swimming pools, stables, tennis and squash courts, a bowling alley, a helipad and garage space for eight cars.

Allen-Vercoe put the house on the market in 2005, hoping to sell it in six months. However, with no buyer found, the costs of maintaining the house grew to £1.5 million ($2.3 million) per year.

Allen-Vercoe is a bricklayer's son-turned-property developer. His company Rhymer Investments purchased it in 2002 out of receivership for £20 million - and has since spent at least £30 million ($46.5 million) on renovation work.

The neo-classical California-style mansion was built in 2002 on the site of an earlier property which was owned during the 1970s by Prince Sami Gayed of Egypt.

The house, which has 24 bedrooms and 23 bathrooms, has been built with some of the world's rarest materials -  mainly Italian marble.

The mansion has a 50-seat cinema, a two-lane bowling alley, a gymnasium, a squash court, a flood-lit tennis court, a lake, a wine cellar for 3,000 bottles and a 'panic room'. 

Visitors approach the mansion, which is 30 miles from Central London, along a heated marble driveway.

Neighbours include Sir Elton John and Queen guitarist Brian May.

Mr Penfold, from Reigate acquired Updown Mansions after a bizarre series of events.

The original Updown Court had been left as a shell after it had been damaged by fire in the Great Storm of 1987 - when a tree apparently fell and ruptured the gas main.

It was subsequently acquired by two investors who themselves were bankrupted and Mr Vercoe then stepped in.

'Yes, I'm an opportunist,' said Mr Vercoe. 'That's what all good businessmen should be.'

Source: Daily Mail

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