Evening Standard 2002 - Who owns London?
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Fri Aug 12 14:46:00 BST 2016
Who owns London?
The question who owns London used to be easy to
answer: Royals and aristocrats. But, as new
research reveals, a modern breed of entrepreneur
has discovered that there is gold in bricks and
mortar. They have been busy buying up London
regardless of recession, understanding the
long-term gain to be had in purchasing valuable
freeholds and becoming multi-millionaires in the process.
These new players now collectively own more than
250 acres of our city, worth more than £2
billion, says Kevin Cahill, whose book Who Owns
Britain is he says, "the first detailed look at
land ownership in modern times".
Here, we look at the top three Establishment
landowners as well as the richest of the self-made property barons.
So far the newcomers have failed to shake the
richest of London's landowners off the top of the
wealth table. The Duke of Westminster, the Queen
and the Earl of Cadogan are still London's top
landowners, holding nearly 700 acres of central-London land between them.
DUKE OF WESTMINSTER
What he owns: 300 acres of Mayfair and Belgravia,
worth £10 billion by Cahill's calculation.
Lowdown: Gerald Grosvenor, the sixth Duke of
Westminster and the current head of the Grosvenor
family, is the richest man in Britain, according
to Forbes Global magazine's list of the world's billionaires.
Grosvenor's London holdings include Eaton Square
in Belgravia, which is one of the city's smartest
addresses. The estate still owns the freeholds of
most of its Mayfair and Belgravia properties,
despite legislation passed in 1993 giving
residents of blocks of flats the right to buy
their freeholds. The Duke of Westminster resigned
from the Conservative Party over this law change.
To date, Grosvenor has sold only 185 freeholds,
although it says its approach to requests to
enfranchise has changed. "We just get on with it," says a spokesman.
What it owns: around 265 acres across London,
including Regent Street, Regent's Park, much of
clubland around St James's and Pall Mall, and
holdings in Kensington, Holborn and the City.
According to Cahill it is worth £6 billion.
However, the Crown Estate says its London
holdings have an open-market value of £2.5
billion, arguing that Cahill's figure ignores
variations on leases, low ground rents and other
factors that reduce the value of property to the estate.
Lowdown: the Crown Estate is part of the Queen's
hereditary possessions, but profits go to the
Exchequer. Its freeholds include properties in
Kensington Palace Gardens, the exclusive street
leading up to Kensington Palace where, currently,
a property is on the market for £85 million.
The estate can and has sold off freeholds to
residents, with the exception of properties near
the Royal parks and palaces. This includes
properties overlooking Regent's Park, Richmond
Green and around Eltham Palace. Anthony Bickmore,
director of the Estate's urban estates division,
says: "If properties are part of the form of a
park or palace, we won't sell them off."
What it owns: 90 acres of Chelsea and
Knightsbridge worth £3 billion, according to
Cahill. Cadogan says its holdings had a book
value of £1.54 billion in December 2001 and that
Cahill ignores the impact of long leases and low
ground rents in reducing property values.
Lowdown: the eighth Earl Cadogan succeeded to the
title and inherited the estate in 1997. Cadogan
is freeholder of both Peter Jones (which pays a
fixed rent of just £6,000 a year) and Harvey
Nichols (which pays £3.5 million a year in rent on its 30-year lease).
The estate has also bought the 10 acres of the
former Duke of York's territorial army barracks
in the King's Road for £94 million and is
planning a mixed development of shops, offices
and flats. Half the estate is residential, says
chief executive Stuart Corbyn, and so far
residents of 250 flats and houses have bought
their freeholds. Another 100 or so residents are
sitting tight on secure tenancies, paying tiny rents.
What he owns: Soho stretches across approximately
140 acres and Raymond owns almost half of them.
This pushes his wealth past the £1 billion mark.
Lowdown: Paul Raymond, 75, is the biggest new
player on the landowning scene since the 1950s.
He started his career washing dishes for £1 a
week before opening the Raymond Revue Bar in 1958
and creating a soft-porn empire. "Raymond is a
big figure at public auctions," says Cahill. "He
owns more than 330 freeholds and he's one of the
most successful men in modern London who isn't an aristocrat."
Raymond generates a large income from rents on
commercial property in Soho, says Marc Thorne of
Sunrise Publishers, which specialises in
publishing details of the wealth of individuals and companies.
MARK PEARS AND FAMILY
What they own: Fifty acres across London worth an
estimated £750 million, through William Pears
Family Holdings, as well as a network of subsidiaries.
Lowdown: Mark Pears is one of three brothers who
run a firm started by their mother. They are
understood to own 20,000 freeholds (houses and
blocks of flats), collecting ground rents from
long leaseholders and rents from short-term and protected tenants.
Six years ago a Pears company, St Ermin, hit the
headlines when it tried to increase the rent of
low-income tenants in Graham Mansions, Hackney,
by 300 per cent in return for installing modern
bathrooms. Thorne says: "The family is quite
private, but they give a lot to charity."
What he owns: Forty-five acres across London,
worth £450 million, through a network of property companies.
Lowdown: Chris Lazari is a Greek Cypriot who
arrived in Britain in the 1970s. He started work
in a sweatshop in Finsbury Park before buying his
first property. "He bought one house, then the
house next door, then the whole street," says Cahill.
He now owns commercial and residential property
in Mayfair and Baker Street, as well as two acres along Tottenham Court Road.
What he owns: 35 acres across London worth £350
million through a complex web of 156 companies.
Lowdown: the Freshwaters, who are Orthodox Jews,
came to Britain in the 1920s. Benzion, 53, is the
current head of the dynasty; his father, Osias,
made his fortune in the post-war housing boom
after building up a successful textile business.
The family has a reputation for being secretive;
and is generous to Jewish charities.
Owners of leasehold flats in blocks owned by
Freshwater have clashed over service charges and
management, while problems in one block were raised in Parliament in 1997.
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