Not such a simples pad for meerkat millionaire: CompareTheMarket.com boss lives in South Africa’s biggest home
- Douw Steyn, 62, is the South African entrepreneur who set up insurance firm ComparetheMarket in Peterborough
- Now worth an estimated £600million, he has built himself a vast mansion in the countryside outside Johannesburg
- Palazzo Steyn is the country’s biggest and most expensive house, with seven bedroom suites and marble garage
- Now Mr Steyn, who also has a £62million mansion in London’s Belgravia, is building luxury housing estate around it
- His fortune doubled in four years thanks largely to the success of the TV adverts featuring meerkat Alexsandr Orlov
He’s the man made rich by meerkats, and this is how he’s chosen to spend (some of) it.
Entrepreneur Douw Steyn, 62, who owns the ComparetheMarket insurance website and is worth £600million thanks to the meerkat adverts, has built himself a vast palace in his native South Africa.
The modestly named Palazzo Steyn, currently being built on a 2,000-acre estate between Johannesburg and Pretoria, is surrounded by a ruined aqueduct from which water plunges into a lake below.
Scroll down for video
Palazzo Steyn, built for ComparetheMarket entrepreneur Douw Steyn, 62, is in an estate outside Johannesburg
Looking more like a ballroom than a garage, this marble-lined basement is for Mr Steyn’s collection of cars
Douw Steyn, 62, started his insurance firm in Peterborough, Lincolnshire, in 1992, and its fortunes soared thanks to the meerkat ads which made the animal’s catchphrase, ‘Simples’, a national phenomenon
With seven bedrooms suites, a wine cellar, and a cavernous marble-floored garage with room for 33 cars, Palazzo Steyn is South Africa’s biggest house, dwarfing the sprawling home in KwaZulu-Natal province of the country’s President, Jacob Zuma.
There’s also a large swimming pool, two fire pools, and extensive walled gardens laid to lawn at the house, which is also South Africa’s most expensive, having cost around £14million to build.
When asked about the size of the underground garage, the businessman, who is married to charity worker Carolyn, said: ‘My home has a basement area that will house my car collection of sport and vintage models.
‘This is one of my hobbies and the architects were briefed to design a showroom where the cars can be easily displayed and manoeuvred.’
The multi-millionaire, who two years ago bought a ten-bedroom, £62million mansion in London’s Belgravia, wants to build 11,000 homes, private hospital, two private schools, shops and office parks, alongside woodland and a 26-mile running track around it.
The businessman said he designed the estate based on the idea that ‘too much time is wasted in cities sitting in traffic and commuting between home, work, schools and the shops’.
Speaking on his Steyn City website, he said: ‘I could have invested in a luxury residence in Europe or in the States, but instead I chose to invest in South Africa. This is indicative of the confidence I have in our country and the success of Steyn City.
Original style: The house is surrounded by a circular aqueduct from which water plunges into a man-made lake
Carolyn and Douw Steyn, pictured at their wedding in Johannesburg last year, were friends of Nelson Mandela
Palazzo Steyn will be the centrepiece of his brainchild, the 11,000-home Steyn City – a luxury ‘lifestyle estate’
The London pad: Mr Steyn bought himself this ten-bedroom house in Belgravia two years ago for £62million
How the money was made: The success of the meerkat TV adverts meant that Mr Steyn’s fortunes doubled
‘I also long for the quality of life that we are creating for future residents and it therefore made sense for me to be a part of it… My wife and I are looking forward to entertaining our friends and business partners from all over the world at our new residence, while also exposing them to our magnificent country.’
The estate, which at 900 acres will be nearly five times the size of Monaco, will be 50per cent developed and 50per cent woodland, with pedestrian walkways and cycle and running tracks looping through and around it.
Mr Steyn is said to be passionate about the idea that the car ruins environments for people – instead he wants children in Steyn City to grow up playing outside without danger of being run over.
There is also a Nicklaus Design 18-hole championship golf course being built on the estate, with completion scheduled for next year, when the homes in Steyn City will first go on the market.
It will be open to residents and their guests, and is being built around canyons and an old quarry.
This picture shows the fourth hole on the Steyn City Golf Course, which is currently being built for residents
The Steyn City golf course clubhouse will feature a ‘growing roof’ planted with vegetation to help it blend in
Mr Steyn, who owns the upmarket Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg, and the Shambala Private Game Reserve in Limpopo, was a close friend of Nelson Mandela, whose widow attended the Steyn wedding last year.
It was to Mr Steyn’s Johannesburg home that Mandela went after he was freed from jail in 1990, and it was there, in the entrepreneur’s home in the smart suburb of Sandhurst, that Mandela finished his autobiography Long Walk To Freedom.
The South African insurance boss owes much of his success and wealth to the fictional chief meerkat, Aleksandr Orlov, who spoke in a fake Russian accent and made his ‘Simples’ catchphrase a national phenomenon.
Worth £200million when the meerkat adverts first hit British screens in 2009, his wealth has since more than doubled – impressive for an insurance firm started in Peterborough in 1992.
The entrepreneur was born in Johannesburg and attended university before moving to Britain in 1992 and setting up BGL, parent company of ComparetheMarket. By 2009 he was worth an estimated £200million, and a year later it had grown to £320million, since when it has grown yet again.
Meanwhile, the company’s value has more than doubled from £43million in 2008 to £88million, thanks to the meerkats, while BGL employs 2,400 people at its Cambridgeshire HQ plus offices in Sunderland and Coventry.