A HIGHLAND sporting estate has become what is thought to be the most expensive sold in Scotland after being bought by a Russian vodka billionaire.

The Tulchan Estate, which had been owned by the Litchfield family, had an asking price of more than £25 million.

It has been sold to a company owned by Mr Yuri Schefler, who according to Forbes is worth £1.34 billion and who plans more investment into the Strathspey estate.

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The estate’s famous fishing guests have included King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI, former US president Theodore Roosevelt, the railway financier William Vanderbilt and King Leopold of Belgium.

HeraldScotland:

Mr Shefler, who has also been a regular guest at Tulchan, owns S.P.I. Group, which produces and sells alcohol under 380 brands in 160 countries.

Its best known brand is Stolichnaya vodka, which Mr Shefler controversially bought from state-owned VVO Soyuzplodoimport for around £178,000 in 1997.

Mr Shefler, who is said to spend his time between the UK and Switzerland, left the Russian army in September 1987 and started a business career that has included running one of Moscow`s leading shopping malls and heading Vnukovo Airlines.

Savills handled the sale, which comprises more than 21,000 acres by Advie, near Cromdale, Strathspey. A Savills spokeswoman would not reveal the purchase price, but said: “It is one of the most expensive properties ever to be sold on the open market in Scotland.”

A spokesman for Tulchan Sporting Estates said: “The company has been bought by a company for the principal benefit of Mr Yuri Schefler of Russia, who is well known to the estate having been a regular visitor in the past.”

The package includes eight miles of prized Spey fishing, an “exceptional” pheasant shoot, two driven grouse moors and an Edwardian shooting lodge that sleeps 26. At the core of the estate are the eight miles of double bank fishing on the river revered by fly fishermen as one of the greatest of all salmon runs.

Savills said last year the decision to sell the estate had “not been taken lightly” by the long-time owners.

But the sale had been hit by a row over the rights of the estate’s tenant farmers, which campaigners had asked to be put on hold.

Legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2003 is meant to ensure tenants are granted the right to buy when farms are put up for sale.

Because the new owners of Tulchan will buy the shares of a company, rather than a property, the farms will not technically have been sold and the tenants will not be able to trigger a right to buy.

But a spokeswoman for Savills said the issue over the tenant farms had been resolved with the sale.

“The company was transferred in its entirety, which was of priority to maintain staff jobs. The former owners are pleased this objective has been achieved. The farms are assets of the company and are subject to tenancy rights and these will be unaffected by the sale,” she said.

Carl Stewart, chair of Cromdale and Advie Community Council, welcomed the sale.

He said:”I think is is good news. Change is always good if it brings new investment to the area. We want to work together for the benefit of the community, including local businesses.”