Britain's greatest property investors - Part 2
We look at the six more property barons who got rich off property in the 1995-2007 boom, and uncover the secrets of their success!
In part I of this look at the UK's most successful property tycoons, I looked at eight of the UK's biggest winners from the 1995-2007 property boom.
Without further ado, here are six more property barons who made hay while the sun shined:
Six more winners from the boom
Ronson (70) is surely the UK's most powerful and respected property tycoon. He is also one of our most colourful businessmen, thanks to spending six months in prison following his conviction in 1990 as part of the Guinness share-trading fraud. (In fairness, Ronson's trial was ruled unfair by the European Court of Human Rights in 2000.)
Ronson has been investing in property since the Sixties. His Heron International group (founded in 1956 and once one of the UK's biggest private companies) narrowly avoided collapse during the Nineties crash. Currently, his company is building the 663-foot Heron Tower at 110 Bishopsgate, which is all set to become the City of London's tallest building.
Like many billionaires, Ronson gives generously to good causes. He puts aside a fifth of his working week to charitable causes, and his Ronson Foundation has donated over £25 million to worthy causes.
Fergus and Judith Wilson
The Wilsons are the poster couple for the 'buy-to-let boomers'. Beginning in the early Nineties, the former maths teachers from south London bought over 900 properties in Kent, all in the towns of Ashford and Maidstone. The Wilsons specialised in two- and three-bedroom homes which were easy to rent, both to local tenants and London-bound commuters.
Although their wealth was once estimated by the Sunday Times at £180 million, this was clearly wide of the mark. The Wilsons used buy-to-let mortgages to borrow heavily against existing properties in order to expand their portfolio. Being heavily leveraged, their wealth will have taken a beating during the property slump.
In September 2009, the Times reported that their entire portfolio was up for sale -- and that the Wilsons had mortgage arrears of £350,000...
Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz
Robert (49) and Vincent (51) Tchenguiz moved from Iraq to Iran in 1948 and then fled to Britain in 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power. Their Rotch Property Group has been investing in London property since 1982, and the brothers run their property empire from Leconfield House, the former MI5 headquarters in Curzon Street.
As well as extensive property interests, the Tchenguiz brothers previously had huge holdings in household names such as J Sainsbury and the Mitchells & Butlers pub chain.
Alas, the brothers borrowed aggressively to fund these acquisitions and lost hundreds of millions when the Icelandic banks collapsed. Once worth a net £850 million, their wealth has plunged since 2007.
The Duke of Westminster
Lastly, any mention of property tycoons would be incomplete without mentioning His Grace, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster. Despite leaving Harrow School with a single O-level and initially failing the entrance exam to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Grosvenor (58) has dynastic wealth.
Thanks to inheriting his family's property holdings in Mayfair and Belgravia, plus vast country estates, Grosvenor takes third spot on the Sunday Times Rich List 2009, with his wealth estimated at £6.5 billion.
In my view, Grosvenor is sure to be Britain's biggest winner from the property boom. Money goes to money, as they say!
Keeping it in the family
One thing that strikes me is that several of the most successful property tycoons on my list are brothers. As well as the Candys and Reubens, the Rich Lists contain many other "brother businesses".
For example, Eddie and Sol Zakay are together worth £1.5 billion, thanks to the success of their Topland Group, which buys retail properties including shopping centres and supermarkets.
Likewise, brothers Ian and Richard Livingstone are worth around £1.4 billion, thanks to their ownership of London & Regional Group, which has been buying distressed property assets since the early Nineties.
Clearly, it pays to keep it in the family.
Philanthropy and immigration
Then again, it also pays to be an outsider: dozens of property tycoons started off as immigrants to Britain -- those fleeing Iran in 1979 seem to be particularly successful. Also, numerous property barons are Jewish, which perhaps reflects that religion's belief in property ownership as a mean to building a strong, secure basis for family life.
Another feature of this list is the willingness of these property and business tycoons to be charitable and philanthropic. Many of those listed above donate millions of pounds a year to good causes; several have set up charitable foundations; and all give their time or support to good causes.
So, there you have it: the UK's most successful property magnates.
One last thing my research shows is that getting rich from property isn't an easy ride. Many of the above tycoons had no formal education beyond secondary school. They learnt the hard way, by putting in long hours, doing deals, and learning from their own mistakes.
Others came to this country in order to build a new life. Yet more have carved out a niche in particular sectors, both at the high and low ends of the market. Several have even bounced back from the Nineties crash.
But all have worked mighty hard to get to where they are today!
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