Expatica news

Prince who transformed Marbella dies

22 January 2004

MARBELLA – Alfonso de Hohenlohe-Langenburg, whose dynamism turned the Spanish fishing village of Marbella into a world-famous resort, has died aged 79, it was reported Thursday.

Hohenlohe came, on his father’s side, from a family who traced their history back to the sixth century but the hereditary wealth of his family was depleted soon after the Second World War.

He was sent by his father in 1947 to hunt for new properties to revive the family fortunes.

Charmed by the beauty of Marbella, which was then a fishing village, he bought a vineyard.

Unlike its neighbour Torremolinos, full of grey high-rise blocks, Marbella was developed by Hohenlohe and his friends with low Andalusian white-washed houses and palm-filled gardens.

In the early 1950s he had a 16-room hotel built and began to invite the titled and wealthy, who happily switched from rainy Biarritz on the French Atlantic coast to a village free from heating bills.

Labour too was almost free, since Spain in the years after the civil war was utterly devastated, and the people in the countryside were starving.

Hohenlohe liked to see himself as a businessman, first developing Marbella, then holding the Volkswagen concession in Mexico and later the Volvo one in Spain.

“People have always called me mad,” he said proudly in a recent interview. “I always knew how to look ahead.”

In 1955 he married the 15-year-old Ira von Fürstenberg, the Fiat heiress, scandalising high society. But they divorced five years later.

The 1960s saw Hohenlohe at the peak of his fame, with Hollywood stars, Arab sheikhs and dethroned European royalty – such as the Duke of Windsor – rubbing shoulders at his Marbella Club.

A popular figure in the gossip columns, he numbered Ava Gardner and Kim Novak among his many girlfriends. He was known locally as Olé-Olé, in reference to his partying and hard-to-pronounce surname.

After one more unhappy marriage and a costly divorce to British starlet Jackie Lane, he settled with his third wife Marilys, a Gibraltarian divorcee, near Ronda, in Andalusia.

Hohenlohe sold his business interests in Marbella in 1978 as he believed mass tourism had lowered the tone of the town.

He was proud of being a prince and enjoyed the privileges this brought him in Franco’s Spain, where his projects were immune from planning permission or labour laws.

At the same time, he insisted he had worked hard. He said: “Thanks to my initiative, Marbella’s Golden Mile alone now provides 60,000 jobs.”

His life ended sadly, for Marilys died suddenly in 2000, the same year his cancer was diagnosed.

Hohenlohe is survived by his four children: Christopher and Hubertus, with his first wife, Ira; Arriana, with his second wife, Jackie; and Desirée, with the Swiss model Heidi Balzar.

Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe-Langenburg, playboy and businessman, born May 28 1924; died December 21 2003

Subject: Spanish news