Critics denounce Bill Gates’ real estate conquests in Rome, ND

Bill Gates says buongiorno, Roma!

The billionaire – who is the newest owner of more than 2,000 acres of prime farmland in northeastern North Dakota – is adding something more luxurious to his burgeoning real estate portfolio: Palazzo Marini in Rome . Reports indicate that Gates plans to convert the 17th-century structure, located near the legendary Spanish Steps, into a six-star hotel.

The building is very close to the Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Spagna and Via Condotti, and not far from Piazza Navona and Via Veneto.

Gates, 66, the former CEO of Microsoft and its largest shareholder, and his frequent investment partner, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, 67, are paying around $170 million for the property, Corriere della Sera reported.

The palace would be a “true fixer upper” which has been used as a pop-up Ikea store selling kitchen utensils and as a canteen for lawmakers in the lower house of parliament in recent years.

Gates is said to be transforming the Palazzo Marini in Rome into a “six star” hotel.
Jamie McCarthy

Gates and the prince are likely to shell out big bucks to transform the building, which spans four blocks in the heart of Rome, into a luxury hotel that would include around 100 rooms and possibly space for a conference center , a gym and a spa.

It is planned as a “six star” hotel, although such a classification does not officially exist. According to at least one travel writerother extremely high-end hotels worthy of six stars include the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, the Baur au Lac in Zurich, Le Bristol in Paris, the Mandarin Oriental in Thailand and the Taj Falaknuma Palace in southern India.

Gates and Prince Alwaweed were blocked in their efforts to buy the venerable Hotel Danieli on Venice’s Grand Canal earlier this year because the Venetians did not want foreign investors to take over the property.

Gates and his frequent investment partner, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal (above), are paying around $170 million for the property.
Gates and his frequent investment partner, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal (above), are paying around $170 million for the property.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Palazzo Marini would be a
The Palazzo Marini is said to be a “genuine top fix” that has been used in recent years as a pop-up Ikea store selling kitchen utensils and as a canteen for lawmakers in Italy’s lower house of parliament.
Mondadori wallet via Getty Images

Gates’ real estate ventures, which are managed by Cascade Investments LLC, the non-philanthropic arm of his empire, have occasionally sparked controversy.

North Dakota’s attorney general recently asked the Gates Trust that acquired the North Dakota land to explain how it will be used, to ensure compliance with the rules set out in North Dakota’s anti-corporate farming law. the state. This law prohibits all corporations or LLCs from owning or leasing farmland or ranches, with a few exceptions.

North Dakota’s agriculture commissioner also told a local TV station that many people feel they are being exploited by the super-rich who scoop up local land but don’t necessarily share local values.

Some of Gates’ many critics have long been skeptical of how much of his philanthropy seems to benefit himself and other big business. The nation reported in 2020 that out of 19,000 charitable donations made by the Gates Foundation, nearly $2 billion in tax-deductible charitable donations went to some of the world’s largest and most powerful companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever, IBM and NBC Universal Media.

Gates is now the is now the largest private farmland owner in the country as well as a thriving hotelier – businesses that have grown since his messy divorce from his 27-year-old wife, Melinda French, last May.

“‘Gates’ vanity decisions, like this six-star luxury palazzo hotel business, seem to suggest what he is: a restless new bachelor with plenty of time to burn and a big ego to satisfy,” Linsey McGoey, author of “Nothing Like a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Prize for Philanthropy,” told the Post.

Venice's Hotel Danieli turned down bids by Gates earlier this year because the Venetians did not want foreign investors to take over the property.
Venice’s Hotel Danieli turned down bids by Gates earlier this year because the Venetians did not want foreign investors to take over the property.
Getty Images

“The question is why people saw him as a benevolent czar for global welfare when generally his own welfare seems paramount.”

Gian Lorenzo Bernini began building the Palazzo Marini in 1650, and it has been home to many noble families over the years. Pope Innocent XII took over at some point and it briefly became the seat of the Pontifical Tribunal.

The building has languished in recent years after a developer had to sell it at a discount after being arrested in 2016 on corruption charges.

The Palazzo Marini is next to famous Rome attractions such as the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.
The Palazzo Marini is next to famous Rome attractions such as the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.
Getty Images

Locals hope the transformation of Palazzo Marini into an upscale hotel will breathe life into Rome’s waning tourist economy. During the pandemic, 410 of the city’s 1,200 hotels closed.

Gates’ Cascade Investment took control of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in September 2021 by buying about half of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s stake for $2.21 billion.

Prince Alwaleed, through his investment vehicle Kingdom Holding Co, will continue to hold the remaining stake, Four Seasons said in a statement last year. Alwaleed is worth around $18 billion.

Gates' real estate businesses have grown since his divorce from his 27-year-old wife, Melinda French, last May.
Gates’ real estate businesses have grown since his divorce from his 27-year-old wife, Melinda French, last May.
Getty Images for Robin Hood

The Four Seasons did not respond to a call from the Post.

The prince’s holdings include stakes in Lyft, Twitter, Citigroup, the George V Hotel in Paris and the Savoy Hotel in London. Alwaweed is also one of the outside backers of Elon Musk’s upcoming Twitter takeover.

Gates’ myriad real estate investments are often far less flashy than his newest acquisition in Rome.

Last year, a reporter from the Land Report tracked down the new owner of 14,500 acres of eastern Washington farmland — bought for $171 million — from an LLC with revenues under $300,000 and just two employees in the small bayou town of Monterey, Louisiana.

He eventually traced the LLC back to Cascade Investments and Gates. Cascade has been run since 1994 by publicity-shy Michael Larson, who the New York Times reported last year encouraged a “culture of fearto the office.

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