Tycoon who built Harry and Meghan's £11m mansion reveals lavish details & expensive outgoings but gives mudslide warning

THE tycoon who built Harry and Meghan’s £11million new home has revealed the lavish details behind the mansion – and also issued a warning about mudslides.

Multi-millionaire businessman Terry Cunningham, 61, bought the 5.4 acres of “spectacular” land with his wife Randi in exclusive Montecito in 1999 and spent four years building the 14,463 sq ft property called The Chateau of Riven Rock.

The chief executive of software company Descartes Labs, said the estate was modelled on French houses that the couple loved while on a cycling holiday in the south of France.

He told the Mail on Sunday: “It's all French Provencal – a beautiful French country house.”

The huge property comes with sweeping lawns, tiered rose gardens, Italian cypress trees, blooming lavender and century-old olive trees.

Mr Cunningham designed the nine-bedroom, 16-bathroom mansion down to the smallest detail, including a spa, two-bedroom guest house, library, games room, arcade, cinema and private gym.

It also has a large pool and tennis court, as well as an outdoor children's play area.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex bought the property in May using a shell company listed at the LA address of Meghan’s business manager Andrew Meyer.

They are thought to have moved in six weeks ago.

Mr Cunningham paid meticulous attention to detail that he even "scented" the wine cellar by smashing two bottles of red wine on the floor.

He also used extra-thick plywood to prevent the floorboards from squeaking.

Mr Cunningham told the paper: “I designed the wine cellar. It's a beautiful room. It's got gravel on the floor and I emptied a couple of cheap bottles of red on to the gravel so it smelled correctly.

"I thought that was kind of fun. My brother owns a plywood mill. Most houses don't have 11-ply wood and that's why the floors don't creak. I'm a bit of a fanatic about details like that.”

The home's heating and ventilation system was even built to 'sense' fog rolling in from the ocean.

“We used an algorithm to figure out when the heating system should shut down or spool up, based on the rate of change in the fog. We have sensors for sunlight on the south-facing wall to figure it out.”

The property was designed with one eye on the need for entertaining but still keep the feel of a private family home.

Mr Cunningham said: “The kitchen is probably one of the coolest rooms in the house. It opens on to the side patio where the pizza oven and outdoor tables are. Living in Montecito, there's a lot of indoor-outdoor lifestyle, so you easily move from decks to indoors.

There was one note of caution though.

Mudslides, triggered by heavy rain after the surrounding hills had been hit by wildfires came within 200ft of the property in 2018.

What it costs to run The Chateau of Riven Rock

The Mail on Sunday estimates Harry and Meghan will need several million pounds a year just in running costs as well as pay off the money for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage.


Mortgage on reported £7.25m loan on the mansion, repayable over 30 years: £314,400

Repayment on Frogmore Cottage refurbishment costs: £216,000

Property tax: £112,300 (1 per cent of the home’s sale price of £11.23 million)


Six security guards – ex-military or former police officers – licensed to carry firearms (including accommodation, flights and expenses): £775,040

Security chief: £144,000

Monitoring and patrols: £24,000


Butler (if they employ a high-end full-time steward): £156,000

Four housekeepers: £272,160

Chef (if they choose one): £91,728

Nanny: £78,000

Chauffeur (if they have one): £73,368

Chief of staff Catherine St-Laurent: £156,000

Personal assistants: £220,080

Ladies’ maid (If hired – salary based on advice Stephen Candland, CEO of Private Staff Group, which supplies LA’s rich set): £82,536

Two full-time gardeners and groundskeepers: £156,000

Garden/pool upkeep: £45,852

Pest control: £4,200


Electricity: £23,400

Water rates: £12,600

Gas: £21,600

Those figures don’t include other expenditures the royal couple might incur such as personal trainers, business managers or health insurance.

He said: “We sure as hell didn't think about it [the mudslides] when we were building but certainly it's something I would be thinking about now.”

Mr Cunningham sold the property in 2009 when the family wanted to downsize, selling it to the Russian billionaire Sergey Grishin, 54, who was nicknamed the 'Scarface Oligarch'.

Mr Grishin recently denied claims that he threatened to kill his ex-wife Anna Fedoseeva.

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