Have you ever had a problem meeting your mortgage? Have you ever felt what it is like to be working so hard just so you can pay off the bank that you owe money to for the home you are living in? Sometimes, you just wonder if it is just worth it as paying off for the house seems to last forever.
Now imagine having a house that will probably take several generations of your family before it finally gets paid off. No, we are not talking about the Crespi-Hicks estate in Dallas that is being sold for only $135 million. I say only because, though the estate is impressive and luxurious enough, the $135 million price tag is nothing compared to the most expensive house in the world. The estimated value of the house varies in amount, with the highest estimate being a couple of billion dollars and the lowest at $500 million. But it is probably safe to say that the Antilia, a house in Mumbai in India owned by Mukesh Ambani, is valued at $1 billion, making it the most expensive house in the world.
Mukesh Ambani was born in 1957. He has three siblings and they all once lived with their parents in a two-bedroom apartment in the Bhuleshwar district in Mumbai. During the 1970s, his father was able to purchase a whole apartment block with 14 floors in Colaba. The block was called Sea Wind and Ambani and one of his siblings actually lived there on separate floors until recently.
He studied at the University of Bombay, then went to Stanford to pursue an MBA. After just one year in Palo Alto, however, Ambani was called back home by his father after the family got the license to build a manufacturing plant for polyester filament yarn, or PFY.
He then initiated Reliance Industries’ integration of its textile products with polyester fibers. Later on, the company grew and entered other lucrative industries, like petrochemicals, petroleum refining and oil and gas exploration and production. He also established the Reliance Infocomm Limited that was into information and communications technology.
Ambani was also behind the establishment of the largest grassroots petroleum refinery program in the world in Jamnagar. It has the capacity to produce 660,000 barrels per day.
Hitting the Big Time
Ambani is now one of the richest men in the world. He has a personal net worth of around $23.7 billion, making him the richest Indian. He serves as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Reliance Industries Limited, which is the flagship company of the Reliance Group, a conglomerate which is into energy and materials. The company owns the distinction of being the Indian firm with the highest market value. Ambani is its biggest stockholder.
Ambani also sits in the Board of Directors of Bank of America. He is also a member of the international advisory board of the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-profit organization based in the US.
He is also considered to be the richest sports owner in the world. While his Russian and Arab counterparts are busy throwing money away buying football clubs and basketball teams, Ambani has focused on his native India. He is the owner of the Mumbai Indians, a domestic cricket club that is part of the Indian Premier League.
In 2002, Ambani, through the Antilia Commercial Private Limited, bought a property from an orphanage organization. The purchase contravened the Waqf Act. After initial resistance by a Waqf minister, the objection was withdrawn after Antilia made payment. A “No Objection” certificate was thus issued to Antilia.
The government of Maharashtra, however, continued to oppose the construction of the house because it claimed that the Waqf Board did not have the right to sell it. The matter is still pending up to now.
Construction then began. The property is situated at Altamount Road in Cumbala Hill in South Mumbai. The property faces the ocean and measures 4,532 square meters. Properties along the road can cost more than $25,000 per square meter.
Perkins & Will, an American architectural company, designed the building. Staying true to its Indian location, they made use of the principles of Vaastu Shastra that allows the maximum use of positive energy. Every floor of the 27-storey house is unique and each level is made of a different material.
While it has 27 floors, the height is actually equivalent to that of a 60-storey tower. It boasts of more than 37,000 square meters of living space. Among the Antilia house’s features are the following:
- Air traffic control facility.
- Elevators, numbering nine located in the building’s lobby.
- Hanging gardens located in three different floors.
- Health spa.
- Helipads, with capability to accommodate three helicopters at the same time.
- Ice room. Yes, you read that right. A room dedicated for ice. The room includes artificial snow flurries.
- Parking space for up to 168 vehicles.
- Swimming people.
- Theater that can seat up to 50 people comfortably.
- Vehicle maintenance garage occupying one whole floor.
- Yoga studio.
In addition, the marble pillars and stonework are of the rare variety and feature customized hand carvings. Antilia also houses the largest collection of antique sewing machines in the world.
Controversies and Reception
Aside from the objection of the local government of Maharashtra, the Antilia also faces objections from the Indian Navy and the Ministry of Environment. The Navy has said that it will oppose the construction of any helipad in any building in Mumbai. The Ministry of Environment, meanwhile, expressed concern on possible violations of local noise laws. The carpark being constructed has also been deemed as illegal.
Fellow billionaire Ratan Tata of the Tata Group also decried the ostentatious display of wealth, especially given the fact that a lot of children in India do not even have enough to eat. Activists have also said that building such an opulent building in the midst of squalor and poverty betrays a lack of conscience.