Urs Schwarzenbach

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Urs Schwarzenbach is a Swiss-born financier based in the United Kingdom.


Schwarzenbach lives at Culham Court near Henley-on-Thames and sponsored the rowing gallery of the River and Rowing Museum in Henley which is named after him. He also owns other estates and farms in England, a 10,000 acre sporting estate in Scotland and the largest country estate on the Isle of Wight. His wife, Francesca, is a former Miss Australia and is a godmother of Lady Louise Windsor, the daughter of the Earl of Wessex. The couple have two adult children.


Schwarzenbach set up Interexchange, the largest foreign exchange dealership in Switzerland. Through its success, he has bought well over £300m of property in the UK, 123,000 acres (500 km2) in Australia, a palace in Morocco, £17m of assets in the aviation field and the Grand Hotel Dolder in Zürich. He also has his own polo team, the Black Bears, which has some 600 horses with 350 in Australia and 250 in the UK.

He personally backed the racing-themed restaurant Café Grand Prix in Mayfair, London, but this went into liquidation in 2004. In 2005, Urs was estimated to be worth around £900m but, according to The Sunday Times Rich List 2012, he was ranked 87th with an estimated worth of circa £850m.

In 2007, Schwarzenbach outbid other foreign buyers to acquire Culham Court, a 650-acre (2.6 km2) riverside estate downstream of Henley-on-Thames on the Berkshire bank. Schwarzenbach bought the estate from Paddy and Annabel Nicoll: Mrs Nicoll's father was Martyn Arbib, former head of the Perpetual fund management company, who bought the estate as a wedding present for her in 1997 for a mere £12 million. Coincidentally, Culham's connections with the world of finance run deeper still: Arbib acquired the property from Felicity Behrens, wife of the banker Michael Behrens, who lived there for nearly half a century from 1949 to 1996.

Schwarzenbach's development of the Culham Court estate still continues apace with the on-going extension of the existing 90-acre (360,000 m2) deer park requiring over 4 kilometres of wrought iron deer fencing, a helipad for the "his" and "hers" choppers, a mile long "London" drive through beautiful beech woodland to the main road, the 2010 £8 million acquisition of three cottages and the original walled gardens which will be reinstated to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for the main house, a new ha-ha, and an extensive state of the art 24/7 security system including a "hard" room.

The latest creation is a maze requiring the planting of 20,000 mature yew bushes, and this is just part of the 20-year plan that has been devised for the gardens and grounds. Another property acquired for £2m in 2010, and situated on raised ground that overlooks Culham Court, is set to be demolished and "Culham Cathedral", a Roman Catholic chapel, is to be built in its place. Symm, the Oxford based building company undertaking all the work on the Culham estate, now sponsors the Hambleden Horse Trials. Schwarzenbach bought that entire village on the opposite side of the river to Culham Court for £39 million in 2007.

In 2008, it was reported in the press that Schwarzenbach had bought nearby Fawley Court for £22 million. Another substantial riverside property on the outskirts of Henley-on-Thames and once owned in the nineteenth century by a Scottish banker, it was sold in controversial circumstances by the Congregation of Marian Fathers, a Polish religious community which had no further use for it. During 2012, extensive building works continue on the main house yet again with Symms continuing to be the main benficiary of the contract and work at the two lodges adjacent to the A4130 at the main entrance to the "London drive" are being completed after well over a year and some interesting underground developments. In 2012 the Schwarzenbachs revoked their consent for the permissive footpath that had run alongside the Thames in front of Culham Court as part of The Thames Path for many years.

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