Millionaire Real Estate Magnets, The Candy Brothers


The most controversial arrival onto the property scene this decade, flamboyant millionaire real estate magnets, Nick and Christian Candy still have their sights set on world domination. In this Brand of Brothers, Laura Henderson finds out what their secret is.

When the Candy Brothers tell you that they “don’t do recessions” you believe them. This is just as well, because when you’re spending £15m on a designer penthouse, you expect something out of the ordinary for your wallet-busting efforts. Disarmingly enigmatic, the maverick duo have created the property equivalent of a designer brand around their name without seemingly pushing the boundaries of exigency. Delivering prestigious residential projects on time, on scale and on budget has secured them an ‘in’ with ‘A’ listers, Royalty and the international elite, their signature aesthetic: dark, retro interiors and ‘smart home’ flourishes all integral parts to the billionaire ghetto lifestyle they’re selling. As with all winners however, it’s a brand of conspicuous consumption that has taken a lot more effort to fashion than might first appear.

Real estate supremacy started from more humble beginnings in 1995, when the brothers, then just in their early twenties, borrowed £6,000 from their grandmother as a deposit on a one-bed flat in Earls Court, which they later sold for a £50,000 profit.

Fifteen years on, with a global portfolio worth in excess of £12bn, and several designed and renovated properties in the golden postcodes of Westminster and Chelsea, the duo have shot up the Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated £330m, up from £210m in 2008, a rise of 175%. But just how have the thirty-something brothers managed to infiltrate an already fiercely competitive sector?

In the cut and thrust of the property world, the brothers are viewed with a mixture of admiration and fear. Some put their success down to innate talent and timing, rivals snipe about financial handouts from “benevolent” sovereign wealth funds. But even their staunchest critics admit they’re a hard act to follow. Their trademark properties make constant headlines – penthouse suites in the ‘super prime fortress’ of One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge already reckon in the annals of real estate history for their stratospheric price tags. Granted, you get optimum cutting-edge cachet for that: iris scan Intercom security, temperature controlled wine cellars, panic rooms, split-level swimming pools – clients’ whims, however outlandish, are met to the letter. Investors who bought there testify to the five-star sales treatment from a slick team of Candy branded innovation and design consultants: fine tuned to deliver the utmost in TLC attention.

Signs of genius were less forthcoming in their formative years. Born and raised in Surrey, their father ran a media production firm and their mother was a drama teacher. Both went to public school in Epsom before Nick, eighteen months older than his brother, went on to study human geography at Reading before pursuing a career in advertising. Christian studied business management at Kings College and took a job in the City for Merrill Lynch as a commodity trader.

It wasn’t until money started flowing in on their first ‘on the side ’ property deals that they quit their jobs to focus full-time on real estate – timing had a lot to do with it catering to an influx of high-net worth investors from Middle Eastern royalty and tax exiles to Russian oligarchs at the start of the Millennium. “The brothers spotted that London was in the grip of a boom, and seized the moment perfectly,” adds Giles Barrie, editor of Property Week. “Now their challenge is to mould their image equally successfully to different, less extravagant times.”

Reaping the rewards of tax exile status themselves, the brothers still remain a tight-knit team both at work and at play. Backed by a head office in central London and a further satellite office in Guernsey, what little free time they have is spent indulging in their other passion – sailing their multi-million dollar super yacht Candyscape II, which they designed around the Mediterranean. Associates talk of their ying-yang partnership in business and in personality: Nick the more gregarious and outgoing of the two, is the networker while Christian is the financial brains. Both take their cue from Rolls Royce founder Sir Henry Royce who said: “Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exists, design it.” “You get out of life what you put in,” agrees Nick. “Competition doesn’t phase me – if anything, it raises the bar and makes me focus even harder.”

Tough economic times of late have certainly called for plenty of brotherly graft – although their seeming imperviousness to the credit crunch has left them targets to speculation – mostly about their funding sources. A banking introduction led them to their initial backer - Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh bin Jaber al Thani, who funded their first keynote development, a block of six apartments in London’s Mayfair. An opaque business structure has further fuelled the flames of financial legitimacy, the brothers Guernsey-based investment firm, CPC Group Ltd backed by a network of companies, many in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands and Gibraltar.

As to the more pressing concern of how they will continue to ride out the downturn, both seem genuinely unphased despite much of their property empire consisting of as yet unbuilt and unsold property. That said, the purchase of the 13-acre Chelsea Barracks in 2007 for £959m was the biggest single property deal in British history. Yet the brothers have since bowed out of the project, to free up time and resources to focus on new “challenges” including setting up a financial services consultancy offering short-term loans to other prime London residential developers. Omni Capital, a joint venture with Mortgage Centre IFA, will offer loans from £50,000 to £5 million for periods from three months to a year. Says Christian: “It will provide an attractive offering for those seeking to keep control of their assets and their bankers at bay.”

Global projects are also beckoning now too – with sought after tranches of Monaco and Beverley Hills already under their belt, the brothers have set their sights on Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Says Nick: “Like everyone, we are waiting to see how next year pans out – it’s tough times across the board, but design and property remain a solid investment – they’re tomorrow’s gold standard.”

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