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17 Jul, 2008 02:24

Russia's richest woman denies buying London pad

Russia’s richest woman and wife of Moscow’s Mayor, has denied reports she’s purchased a massive 90-room London pad. Earlier there were reports that Elena Baturina splashed around $US 100 million for the Witanhurst estate, Britain’s second largest home beh

It dates back to the early 18th century, and the opulent interior of the mansion has made it a popular filming location, with several thrillers and period dramas shot there. British TV audiences will recognise it as the setting of the BBC’s Fame Academy.

Boasting an extravagant Grand Ballroom, it is a residence fit for a queen. As it happens, the future Queen Elizabeth once played tennis on the grounds at a pre-Wimbledon party.

The dazzling Grand Ballroom is floored with oak, its walls are covered with walnut paneling and gold leaf, lining the cornices, sparkles under crystal chandeliers. Five acres of gardens surround the building, which is set in a conservation area on Highgate West Hill.

Last year the house was sold for $US 64 million to a Marcus Cooper, a property developer, who put it back on the market six weeks later, asking over double the price he paid for it.

Wittanhurt could fetch as much as $US 300 million if it was restored to its former glory, said Mr. Cooper.