One Lady owner: magazine’s Covent Garden office for sale after over 100 years in the same family
It is the genteel society magazine famed for its adverts for well heeled nannies that has been at the centre of a bitter dynastic row for almost a decade.
Now the Standard can reveal that the family furore over the future of The Lady, one of Britain’s oldest women’s weeklies, is set to be reignited by the sale of the Victorian building where it has been published since 1891.
The handsome corner property on Bedford Street in Covent Garden has been put up for auction next month by publisher Ben Budworth, great-grandson of founder Thomas Bowles.
The landmark is listed with auctioneer Allsop with a guide price of £12.5 million to £13 million.
Mr Budworth has owned The Lady outright since he bought out his mother and three brothers last year for a reported £6,000. However, Mr Budworth’s mother and family matriarch Julia, 86, who was born in the building next door, said she was “horrified” to learn of the sale, adding: “This is news to me, but what can I do? Ben won’t speak to us any more.”
Mrs Budworth said she had “very happy memories” of the offices dating back to her childhood when she would sit with her father “in a lovely room where he used to give me tea and buttered toast”.
The epic falling out — mother and son have not spoken for three years — dates back to Mr Budworth’s appointment of writer Rachel Johnson as editor in 2009 in a bid to modernise the title and boost circulation.
The first few months were documented in a Channel 4 programme The Lady And The Revamp, in which she enraged Mrs Budworth, a cousin of the Mitford sisters, by describing The Lady as a “piddling little magazine that no one even cares about or reads”.
Johnson left after three years and the current editor is Sam Taylor.
As well as the magazine offices, renowned for their “Dickensian” warren of wood-panelled rooms, the building also has an apartment on the upper floors occupied by Mr Budworth’s elderly uncle Tom.
Mr Budworth bought the building from his uncle for £6.2 million in September 2017.
The lot details reveal that the property generates rent of £170,000 a year: £120,000 from The Lady’s lease, which expires in September, and £50,000 a year from the apartment.
George Walker, the Allsop partner handling the auction, said: “The owner wants to move on, he feels that magazine production is not the best use for the place any more.”
The sale has attracted interest from buyers in the Middle East and the US. The Lady offices are likely to become a restaurant.
The auction takes place on February 5 at the Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge. Mr Budworth did not respond to requests for comment.