Britain's Costliest New Home Sold

ReutersA view of the Palladian-style mansion sold for $70 million to Lev Leviev, the Uzbek native who is Israel's richest man.
LONDON -- An Israeli diamond billionaire has bought the most expensive new property ever sold in Britain -- a $70 million home with a bulletproof front door costing $100,000, real estate dealers said.

The seven-bedroom house in the exclusive north London district of Hampstead boasts a $1.5 million stone staircase constructed using 150-year-old carving techniques and an indoor swimming pool with gold-plated mosaic tiles.

The Palladian-style home also features a gym, sauna, ballroom and cinema, a private hair salon and a 1-ton bathroom basin carved from a single piece of white Iranian onyx.

It has been bought by Lev Leviev, a 51-year-old native of Uzbekistan best known for his diamond trading company and who is estimated to be worth $6.5 billion.

A London property agent who asked not to be identified said $70 million was the highest ever paid for a new property in Britain. The most paid for any property is believed to be $128 million spent by steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal for a London mansion.

Glentree International / Reuters
The mansion's indoor swimming pool is lined with gold-plated mosaic tiles.

A spokeswoman for Leviev, Israel's richest man, confirmed the purchase and said he would be moving to London shortly. He is expected to move with his wife and two of his nine children.

The reclusive Leviev, who immigrated to Israel from Uzbekistan in 1971 without a penny to his name, also has homes in Israel, New York and Moscow, but he is thought to favor a move to London because of high taxes in Israel.

He recently opened a company in London and opened a flagship diamond store in exclusive Bond Street, competing directly with De Beer's, the South African-based company that has traditionally been the world's largest diamond dealer.

Leviev's decision to spend millions on London property comes despite a downturn in Britain's once red-hot market. After nearly 10 years of steady growth, prices have tapered in recent months and are even expected to fall in the coming year.

Glentree International / Reuters
The kitchen. One bathroom boasts a 1-ton basin carved from a piece of onyx.
His move to London follows in the footsteps of more high-profile billionaires, including his friend Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.

Once installed in his new home, Leviev will be protected not only by the bulletproof front door but by 25 security cameras and a high-tech alarm system that can be controlled remotely -- from a yacht in the Caribbean if necessary.

In his front garden is a topiary bush that cost $40,000 to shape, and should he get cold there is a $200,000 hand-carved stone fireplace in the living room.