Plattner bars no holds for Fancourt face-lift

03 October 2010 - 02:00 By Simpiwe Piliso looks at what's happening on the property scene

German billionaire Hasso Plattner is spending R42-million renovating his 613ha Fancourt Hotel and Golf Estate on the Garden Route.

Plattner, who once reportedly splashed out R8-million on a party for 300 guests, will refurbish the Manor House Hotel, converting its 34 rooms into 18 luxury suites.

The hotel's three restaurants will be upgraded, while a café and deli will be added. The spa and sports and leisure facilities will also be revamped.

Chris Immelman, the managing director of Pam Golding Property's international division, said Plattner and his wife Sabine had invested R119-million in upgrading facilities at the golf estate since 2004.

The couple, who first visited South Africa in 1971, bought Fancourt in 1994 after the spectacular collapse of the fraudulent Masterbond group, which had funded the golf course and housing developments. They paid just R47.5-million.

Having bought a home in Constantia, Cape Town, the couple not only saw Fancourt as an attractive investment but also as an opportunity to pursue their interests in golf and horses.

After adding the estate to their property portfolio, which includes homes in California and Germany, they closed it down for several months for a R52-million upgrade and series of extensions to the existing hotel and housing complex.

The couple left nothing to chance, even flying Fancourt's 21 managers to one of the world's most exclusive and remote destinations, Lizard Island on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, so they could bond into an effective team.

Plattner, once singled out by Forbes magazine as one of the world's 10 smartest billionaires, started an IT company in 1972 with four compatriots.

They had quit their jobs at IBM in Mannheim to start their own venture, Systems Application and Product Development in Data Processing (known globally as SAP) and provided companies with software to run internal business operations.

Today, SAP is one of the world's biggest software companies.

Now the Plattners are ploughing more of their fortune into Fancourt. Since 1994, the couple have invested close to R1-billion in the estate.

Immelman said: "This reflects their commitment to providing residents with a comprehensive range of luxury facilities."

He provided statistics showing that, over the past 10 years, homes at Fancourt have appreciated, on average, by between 10% and 12% a year. Of the total of 488 properties at Fancourt, 357 to date have been sold and 334 units are already completed.

While the majority of buyers are South Africans, other owners are from the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Ireland, the US, the Netherlands, China, Belgium and Kenya.

Prices for homes at Fancourt range from R6.3-million to R32-million. Fractional ownership, a cheaper option to claim an address in the exclusive golf estate, starts from R320000 to share in two-, three- or four-bedroom villas.

"Many (of the homeowners) spend some four to five months a year at Fancourt," said Immelman, adding that only about 50% of the buyers were golfers.

"Recently, we have been seeing a young type of buyer, mainly families, choosing to live permanently at Fancourt and commute on business as required," said Immelman.

Many of the Gauteng homeowners have private jets at nearby George Airport.

Plattner and his wife also own a home on the estate, where they held the R8-million party in 2003.

At the time, the Sunday Times reported that the function cost almost R27000 a head.

The private bash was hosted by SAP.

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