Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why the Americans don’t own their London Embassy!

The Americans have embassies all around the world. In every case they buy the land first and then build their embassy. The Americans assumed that this would be possible in England; hence they asked the Duke of Westminster, who owned Grosvenor Square, how much they would have to pay to buy the freehold of the land.  However, what they did not know is that the Grosvenor family never sell. Their vast wealth is based precisely on this simple fact; they own their 300 acres of central London including most of Belgravia and Mayfair, not to mention land holdings all over the world. All the houses and offices on this land are leased; their freeholds are never sold.
When the Americans were told the news, they insisted that that was unacceptable, therefore petitioning to Parliament in order to force the Duke to sell. Nevertheless the Grosvenor family did not comply with any pressure.

The Duke then thought of a new compromise. He told the furious Americans whether they were prepared to return to the Grosvenor family all those lands in the USA that were stolen after the American War of Independence, then he would allow the Americans to buy their site on the west side of Grosvenor Square. However, the Americans knew that they were beaten, because the Grosvenor family was basically asking for most of Maine and New York, owned once by the family. They also were not prepared to merely hand over land that they had stolen from the Indians. Therefore, they backed down and the Duke of Westminster allowed them a 999 year lease.
That is why the American Embassy is considered one of the most bizarre and protracted processes of negotiation ever seen in London. It is the only American Embassy in the world which is not owned by the United States of America.

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