The Queen and Wonga: Payday lender HQ leased from Crown Estate

It has emerged that the Queen is indirectly profiting from payday lender Wonga, thanks to the Crown Estate's ownership of the company's Primrose Hill headquarters.

The 15,000-square-foot offices, which house 300 staff, consist of two Georgian buildings in a fashionable area of North London near Regent's Park. According to documents obtained by the Mirror, they are owned by the Crown Estate and leased to property company Westcity, which let them to Wonga on a 20-year lease in 2003. The company is believed to pay several thousand pounds in rent every month.

A spokesman for the Crown Estate confirmed that it was the owner of the properties. "The Crown Estate Act 1961 sets out what Parliament expects of The Crown Estate, including achieving best value in all leases and disposals," he said. "Restricting the ability of our leaseholders to manage their properties as they choose would prevent us from complying with this statutory requirement by potentially reducing the market value we can achieve when transacting."

He added: "We have no direct contractual relationship with Wonga; the property in question is subject to a long-lease to another company."

According to a report in Businessweek, though, Wonga is already looking around for new, larger offices and is set to take space at nearby Greater London House, the former Carreras Cigarette Factory. A spokeswoman for Wonga refused to confirm or deny the move.

The revelation follows the news that the Church of England's pension fund has invested money in one of Wonga's financial backers - a particular embarrassment given that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had previously spoken out against payday lenders for charging vulnerable customers interest rates of over 5,000 percent.

He has vowed to "compete them out of business" by setting up credit unions - although he recently admitted that it could take as long as ten years to get such organisations set up.

Late last month, the UK's largest medical research charity, the Wellcome Trust, sold a holding in Wonga believed to be worth as much as £7 million, following the Archbishop's comments.

The Crown Estate is one of the country's largest property owners, with holdings worth over £8 billion. This includes large swathes of prime London property including, for example, the whole of Regent Street. The Crown Estate is not personally owned by the Queen, and all revenues go in the first instance to the Treasury. However, following the abolition of the Civil List last year, the Queen now receives 15 percent of this sum.

The Sunday Times rich list 2013
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The Queen and Wonga: Payday lender HQ leased from Crown Estate

The 59-year-old billionaire has an almost 30% stake in Arsenal Football club and tops the list with an estimated worth of £13.3 billion.

Blavatnik's wealth rose from £3.4 billion last year to £11 billion in 2013 making him the biggest climber. He owns Warner Music and received £2 billion in April for his stake in TNK-BP.

Indian tycoons Sri and his brother Gopi Hinduja have a wealth of £10.6 billion from the industry and finance sector. The brothers made their fortune from their family firm Hinduja Group, a textile and trading exporter founded by their father in 1914.

Mittal spent eight years at the top of the rich list but slipped down to fourth place this year when the 40% stake he holds with his wife Usha in steelmaking giant ArcelorMittal plummeted from £28 billion to £5.95 billion.

With wealth totalling £9.3 billion, Roman Abramovich is most famous for buying Chelsea FC. A £200 million drop in his fortune lowers Abramovich from third to fourth spot.

Although largely unknown in Britain, 68-year-old Fredriksen is notorious in his native Norway as owner of the world's largest fleet of oil tankers. Once Norway's richest man and now a Cypriot national, the high-school dropout's companies are major players in shipping, offshore drilling and seafood.

The British-born billionaires, the Reuben brothers, are best-known for their vast UK property empire, which includes the John Lewis Partnership's headquarters in London's Victoria.

The Duke of Westminster is the second-highest ranked British billionaire and is worth an estimated £7.8 billion. He owns property group Grosvenor Estates, and half of London's Mayfair and Belgravia, as well as vast portions of the UK and Scotland.

With no change to their wealth this year, the Bertarellis are worth £7.4 billion. Born Kirsty Roper in 1971 into the Churchill China dynasty, 41-year-old Kirsty was a model and wrote the All Saints worldwide hit 'Black Coffee'.

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken inherited a huge stake in Heineken, the world's third-largest brewer on the death of her father Freddy Heineken in 2002. Michel is an investment banker, former Olympic skier and toboganner, and and actor who appeared in the desert epic 'Lawrence of Arabia.'


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