The beautiful Belmarço Palace in Faro, just outside the eastern gate of the old town, was purchased in September 2014 by the entrepreneur João Rodrigues who has started work to turn it into his head office.
Rodrigues’ business empire is varied and includes football, wine, hospitality and property.
The Faro-born businessman recently purchased the Magistério Primário school building in Faro’s historic centre. He paid €1.7 million at auction and aims to create a top-class boutique hotel to the delight of residents and the council.
As for the Belmarço Palace, the Faro mayor today commented to Sul Informação, “The interior of the building is very run down, but the renovation plan is very good. I think within a year, year and a bit, there will an emblematic building renovated and returned to the city, which is very important. The owner is a Farense entrepreneur who is investing in the county and he wants to base his operations there."
The Belmarço Palace was left empty by the Portuguese government which abandoned development plans 18 years ago when Faro council acquired the site for €187,500.
The council then spent €250,000 of ratepayers’ money on renovations.
A dispute between Faro council and the Ministry of Justice about the future of the palace heated up in 2006 when the council was informed from above that the Directorate General of Heritage had sold the site to Estamo, the company that had been taking over numerous public buildings and generating artificial profits for the State.
Estamo, the government real estate company controlled by Parpública, acquired the building at a book value of €700,000 in 2006 and eight years later sold it to Rodrigues at a 30% discount.
Estamo confirmed in September 2014 that "the deed for the purchase of the property was made earlier in the month of September" and that “the sale value was €481,000."
This is a difference of almost €220,000 compared to the amount paid by Estamo, in September 2006.
The municipality’s ‘investment’ of €250,000 remains a mystery as the work was never finished, partly because when contractors started digging to install an elevator, the municipality concluded that the costs might slip a little over budget as the foundations of the palace were close to the level of the water table.
João Rodrigues bought a palace for €480,000 and will be spending at least this again, possibly much more, on renovations to restore the building to its former glory.
The businessman presumably got to where he is today by being smart which, in this instance, makes the council and Estamo look particularly dumb when it comes to handling investments on behalf of the taxpayer.