Safras gobble up the Gherkin

One of the world’s most revered banking dynasties is buying some of the world’s most distinct skyscrapers as they broaden their investments in commercial property.

The Safra Group, controlled by Joseph Safra, has bought one of London’s most recognizable office blocks, the Norman Foster designed Gherkin, for an undisclosed sum, although independent analysts reckon the price is £700m.

The deal comes a year after M. Safra & Co, a family office set up by Joseph’s deceased brother Moise and now run by members of the family, jointly purchased a 40% stake in New York’s General Motors building for an estimated $1.4bn. The other purchaser was the Chinese property developer Zhang Xin. The Safra family have acquired commercial property around the world, much in pretigious locations like London's Bond Street. 

Joseph set up and controls Banca Safra, one of Brazil’s biggest banks. He also has investments in numerous businesses including a recent deal to take over the banana producer and distributor Chiquita.

Joseph was one of the four sons of Jacob Safra, a Lebanese banker. One of those brothers was Edmund Safra, one of the most successful bankers of the 20th century, who set up the Republic Bank of New York and sold it to HSBC shortly before his death in December 1999.