Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest has bought the Margaret River region’s signature five-star offering, Cape Lodge. Rumours of a sale have circled for the past month with talk among some senior winemakers of job offers under the planned new expansion of the estate’s private winery operation. Peter and Joelle Larsen have owned the property for the past 14 years, with the lodge and its restaurant winning numerous awards including Best Australian Boutique Hotel by Gourmet Traveller magazine. In official confirmation on Wednesday morning, Mr Forrest said the property was bought by his Tattarang Group’s Fiveight division for an undisclosed sum, rumoured to be around the $10 million mark. The Times understands expansion was planned for the lodge’s operations, with Tattarang chief investment officer John Hartman saying the property was valued for its luxury experience and reputation among international travellers. “We see significant opportunity to further develop the core guest experience at Cape Lodge, including the potential integration of premium wellness services and a refocusing of the vineyard resources, which can further underwrite a global quality lifestyle precinct in the heart of Margaret River,” Mr Hartman said. Cape Lodge occupies about 16ha with 22 private rooms and a five-bedroom luxury private residence as well as a range of dining, leisure and conference facilities, and the al fresco Cape Lodge Restaurant which overlooks the main lake. Included in the sale is a 3.2ha private vineyard, planted in 1998, that produces sauvignon blanc and shiraz exclusively for the hotel. Dr Larsen said selling the luxury property was “bittersweet” for the couple. “We are very pleased to know the lodge could not have more suitable and capable custodians than the Forrest family who will be able to take the guest experience to even higher levels of performance across all aspects of its operations,” he said. A limited supply of high-end accommodation was identified as a major gap in the region’s tourism offering, though Paul Holmes a Court’s Vasse Felix is redeveloping the Margaret River Hotel for a luxury market and developer Luke Saraceni continues with plans for a Westin Margaret River Spa & Resort at Gnarabup. Leeuwin Estate co-chief executive Simone Furlong welcomed the Forrest family’s investment. “With outstanding wineries, spectacular beaches and an incredible environment to explore, Margaret River over-delivers as a world-class destination for tourists and the Forrests’ investment in Cape Lodge further underscores what a globally unique offering our region represents,” Ms Furlong said. Margaret River Wine Association chief Amanda Whiteland welcomed Mr Forrest’s plans for the private vineyard. “As one the region’s iconic hotels, it is also exciting that there will be a refocusing on the vineyard resources and investment in refurbishing the property,” she said.