With its crystal chandeliers, 17th-century tapestries and marble bathtubs, Cliveden is anything but high-tech. But that didn't stop Microsoft chief Bill Gates and his partners from buying the estate -- the former home of Stanford-in-Britain.
The nation's richest man has a 10 percent interest in Destination Europe, a consortium that paid $69 million in July 1998 for the right to run the 376-acre country home as a hotel. Cliveden housed Stanford's British campus from 1969 to 1983, when the program moved to Oxford. In 1986 the Italianate mansion was converted into a luxury hotel. Guests are pampered by discreet butlers, gourmet chefs and personal maids. Rooms start at $466 a night.
"Some things are still the same. Lady Astor's picture still hangs in the living room, the suit of armor is still in the hallway," says Bob Ceremsak, '78, MBA '85, who attended Stanford-in-Britain in 1976 and returned for a vacation in 1996. "But there's a restaurant where the library used to be -- and the attendants are a lot more polished than Des, our porter."