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Dracula castle in Transylvania may fetch €60 mln

Dracula's castle may sell for €60 million ($78 million) after the local government offered to buy the Transylvanian fortress to boost tourism revenue.

Brasov County Council in central Romania is in talks with a foreign bank on a 10-year loan for that amount to get back the castle from its current owners living abroad, Aristotel Cancescu, president of the municipality, said in a telephone interview. „We want to get involved in getting back the castle and running it because it would be a very good opportunity to further develop tourism,” Cancescu said today. Any purchase must be formally approved by all of the council's members, he said. Built in 1212 by Teutonic knights, the castle was briefly used two centuries later by Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler, who inspired Bram Stoker's Count Dracula legend. Also known as Bran Castle, the fortress was returned to the inheritors of Romanian Princess Ileana by the authorities in May as the government returned assets seized during communism.

The castle's current owners are Dominic von Habsburg, an industrial designer who resides in New York, and his sisters Elisabeth Sandhofer and Maria-Magdalena Holzhausen, who both live in Austria, according to their legal representative. Von Habsburg offered to sell it to the local government last month. Von Habsburg is the grandson of former King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania and one of the six children of Princess Ileana and of Anthon, Archduke of Austria.

The Romanian central government in Bucharest has the first right to buy the castle, according to the country's legislation. Should it decline, the local council can make an offer, according to Lia Trandafir, a partner at Bucharest-based law firm Rubin Meyer Doru & Trandafir, which represents the owners. Trandafir confirmed in a telephone interview today that the owners demanded €60 million for the castle. She said any buyer is required by law to keep the castle as a museum for three years after the purchase. „This castle cannot be bad business, regardless of who buys it because of the symbols associated with it,” Trandafir said, adding that the castle is still open to tourist visits. „Right now it's the only museum in Romania that finances itself entirely and also produces profit,” he said.

Vlad the Impaler used the castle, 200 kilometers north of the capital Bucharest, as a checkpoint between Transylvania, in the northwest of modern-day Romania, and the south known as Wallachia, over which he ruled in the 15th century. Trandafir said central government authorities are still managing the castle as part of an agreement with the owners. Brasov county would still offer to run the castle if the central government decides to purchase it, Cancescu said. Romania has so far failed to take advantage on a large scale of Dracula's symbols on its territory. The government in July dropped plans to build a Count Dracula theme park near Bucharest, saying the Romanian company expected to build it didn't secure the investment it promised. (Bloomberg)