David and Victoria Beckham have sold the Hertfordshire mansion their kids called home to insurance tycoon Neil Utley for £11 million. Utley, chairman of the Hastings Insurance Group, was banned from working in the Lloyds market for two years recently after admitting "detrimental conduct" at a tribunal.
The Beckhams bought the property – dubbed "Beckingham Palace" – soon after their 1999 wedding. Their sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz were brought up there until the family relocated to Spain and then Los Angeles when David transferred to Real Madrid then LA Galaxy. The Beckhams retained the property and returned briefly after David's football career ended last year.
A former children's home, Beckingham Palace has seven bedrooms, a gym, a professionally maintained football pitch, snooker room and "Capability Brown"-style maze, along with an indoor swimming pool. It also contains a second house known as "Mini-Beckingham Palace".
The Beckhams sold the mansion to Utley to help fund their purchase of a £40 million property in London's Kensington. Family friend Gordon Ramsey is believed to have been asked to design the five-star kitchen in the new property. Beckham and Ramsey are also opening the Union Café restaurant in Borough.
New owner Neil Utley is named at 462 on the Sunday Times rich list (2012). A keen amateur guitarist, Utley owns a record label and supports up-and-coming bands. He also owns a golf course, yacht and Harley-Davidson. Utley transformed the ailing Hastings group, becoming majority shareholder and selling it to Goldman Sachs, making a reported profit of £135 million. In 2006 he helped sell Equity Insurance Group, receiving a personal total of £13 million.
Last year Utley had to pay £130,000 fine when a tribunal ruled he had failed to take reasonable steps to ensure sufficient financial systems and controls over personal injury claims. Whether the injury Beckham received from a flying boot at the end of his Manchester United career was covered by personal injury insurance is unclear.
David Beckham will appear in an Only Fools and Horses spoof along with David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst as part of this year's Sport Relief on Friday 21 March.