The lease on Kingston island Ravens Ait has been sold to a Middle East-based businessman for a seven figure sum, the Surrey Comet understands.
Stewart Marine Ravens Ait, the company run by former Olympic sailing medallist Ossie Stewart and which holds the lease to the island, has been sold in a deal rumoured to be worth £1.9m. Mr Stewart was handed a 50-year lease three years ago by Kingston Council, promising to open a sailing school and water sports centre. But the plan failed to materialise after it was deemed uneconomical, and the company instead re-opened Ravens Ait as a wedding and conference venue a year later after a £1m investment.
A spokesman for Kingston Council, which still owns the freehold, initially said the sale of the company was "news to us.” Mr Stewart, who is understood to be sailing, was not available for comment.
Companies House documents dated August 28 reveal leaseholder Stewart Marine Ravens Ait Ltd has appointed Marshal Gaspar, an Indian national living in the United Arab Emirates, as new commercial director. Papers dated September 2 also reveal the company has changed its business address to an accountancy firm in Buckinghamshire. Bucks-based solicitor Lennons confirmed it was representing Mr Gaspar, but declined to comment further. As part of the lease the island must be allowed for 10 days of community use, including use by the sea scouts. The decision by the ruling Liberal Democrat party to lease the island to Mr Stewart was ‘called in’ by opposition Conservative councillors who held a scrutiny meeting behind closed doors in March 2011. Attendees included council leader Derek Osbourne, Conservative leader Howard Jones and the borough valuer. But the sections relating to the value of the island were kept confidential for commercial reasons.
A move to sell to Antoinette Hotels, based in Surbiton, had fallen through. The island is believed to be the setting for the Treaty of Kingston in 1217. Press baron Robert Maxwell was rumoured to have wanted to buy the island and put a casino and helipad on it. Kingston Council bought the site in 1989.