Vijay Mallya lounge at Mahalaxmi racecourse to be auctioned off
Turf club invites bids for air-conditioned 500 sq-ft enclosure at Mahalaxmi racecourse after liquor baron Vijay Mallya's lease runs out
No one knows how to make a statement at the Mahalaxmi racecourse better than the King of Good Times, Vijay Mallya. Now that he's gone, though, the turf club is looking for someone to take his place - all 500 sq ft of it. The RWITC has invited bids for the air-conditioned lounge or 'box' that had earlier been leased to the flamboyant fugitive on the first deck of the members' enclosure.
Imagine rolling up to the green lawns of the racecourse in a Rolls Royce, or flying there in a private chopper, and landing your big bird on the helipad (on the defunct third enclosure). Then, you can make your way to your oh-so-exclusive air-conditioned lounge, even as the hoi polloi battles the heat all around you.
Vijay Mallya's 15-year lease has now expired
At 500 square feet, the UB lounge, or 'Vijay Mallya's lounge' as it is known colloquially, is the size of an average Mumbai apartment. It is directly below the tony Poonawalla lounge, which is on the second deck of the members' enclosure. There is a cafeteria adjoining the Mallya lounge, which is open to the public.
The luxe seating arrangement had been leased out for 15 years to the flamboyant Mallya, who was synonymous with racing. The Kingfisher tycoon is, of course, in the UK now, and has been hitting the headlines regularly as subject of a well-publicised extradition effort by India, where he faces charges of financial crimes.
Mallya at the racecourse
Khushroo Dhunjibhoy, current chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), said, "The lounge was leased to Mallya for 15 years. The lease period is over. Now, the club seeks to lease it out once again for a term of 15 years."
Dhunjibhoy said the bids were, "still coming in. In fact, the last day is December 1, and I am sure somebody will bid for this box." The chairman refused to disclose any base price for the lease though: "We do not have a base price," he said, adding, "I am sure a racing regular will take this box."
Another fortnight to go
The club sent letters dated November 5 to its 9,000-strong member base, asking interested parties to bid for the lounge. The latest letter states that the earlier closing date for bids was November 10, but has been extended to December 1. The November 5 letter was signed by NHS Mani, secretary and chief executive officer of the turf club. Mani, too, refused to disclose any base price. "We do not have any base price. Maybe the RWITC committee has some price in mind, but nothing has been spelled out."
Each offer for the AC lounge has to be accompanied by an earnest money deposit of Rs 5 lakh. This is a deposit given in good faith by the bidder to signal his intention of sealing the deal. In case he does not win the bid, the club will return the money. The Mumbai racing season takes off on November 18.
Air-conditioned lounges at the racecourse have a 'snob value', and come with a hefty price tag. In 2010, the club opened bidding for eight AC boxes, all four-seaters spanning 100 feet each, which went for approximately Rs 30 lakh each. Even then there was plenty of buzz about a 'reserve price' of Rs 20 lakh per box, and bidders had to quote a sum higher than that. However, then RWITC chairman Vivek Jain had denied this.
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