We had a hard time in the credit crunch. When the banks go bust there’s not much hope
I COULD NOT have imagined a couple of months like these. I’ve been to New York for the Christmas shopping, Singapore to see the new Marina Bay Sands and Melbourne to meet my girlfriend Holly Valance’s family. After that I intended going to St Barts to join my yacht, the 62-metre Candyscape 2, but ended up at Sandy Lane instead because the weather was terrible. I had a nice time — on New Year’s Eve I dined at Philip Green and Simon Cowell’s table. There was a lot of business chat, mostly about what 2011 has in store, but it was also relaxing. I love Sandy Lane — it’s a home away from home. I hadn’t been there for five years and the trip made me realise how much I missed it.
I came back on the tenth of January and started working very hard on the launch of One Hyde Park. The buildings took over five years to complete and there were 5,000 people working on it, so it was a big project. A lot of people forget that Chris and I weren’t born into this wealth or society. Sure, we went to public school, university and were educated, but we started our careers with £6,000 lent by our grandma, with which we bought a flat in Redcliffe Square.
ONE HYDE PARK'S formal opening came on Wednesday the nineteenth of January 2011. It was a big day. We started at 10.30am on the top of Pavilion A with the key people behind the project — Lord Rogers, the Ambassador of Qatar, the service suppliers Mandarin Oriental, the contractors Laing O’Rourke and the bank Eurohypo. It was a private gathering with tea and champagne, followed by the release of 5,000 balloons to mark the building’s completion.
We then moved on to a more formal drinks reception and lunch at Mandarin Oriental for 350 guests, with the menu designed by Heston Blumenthal and Daniel Boulud. It was a difficult guest list to compile because you had to have the right mix. You couldn’t invite all 5,000 people who worked on the project so you had to select the most important purchasers, politicians, journalists and celebrities. They included everyone from Bernie Ecclestone to Theo Fennell, from Lord Lloyd Webber to Gary Lineker.
LORD ROGERS DID the speaking, which was nice as I worry about grandstanding. Who wouldn’t in front of 350 guests of every nationality and the world’s press hanging on your every word? The architect’s talk was absolutely adorable, though. He said that One Hyde Park was the greatest building he had ever built — better, even, than Lloyd’s of London, which is quite a testament. It meant that I could enjoy the day and relax with my girlfriend and my family. That was the entire idea, because we had spent five years stressing about the project and didn’t want to stress on the day itself.
The launch of One Hyde Park made the front page of The Times. I was interviewed by CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg, CNBC, BBC, ITV, Fuji TV, Al Jazeera and RTL. I was quite shocked by the enormity of the media coverage — mostly because it’s been dire during the credit crunch. The opening represented some of the first positive news. For us to build something of that scale and nature during one of the worst credit crunches of all time — and in London, not New York or Hong Kong — is something to be proud of.
WE HAD A hard time in the credit crunch. It wasn’t just my group here at Candy & Candy, or my brother’s group, CPC Group. Christian had his equity partner on Noho Square go bust. When the banks go bust there’s not much hope. The price of land in Beverly Hills dropped from $500m to under $150m. It’s been a tough couple of years, but the British like it when you are failing.
I LOVE THE design of One Hyde Park. Splitting the residents and the service quarters is very clever. As the main tenant of the traditional 1850s Eaton Square house, you go through the main door, but the servants go through the mews houses, and they would live above the stable blocks. We’ve taken that old way of doing things into the modern era.
One Hyde Park is unique. You get 10,000 sq ft of floor space, which is much more than the biggest flat I ever did — in Eaton Square; that was 6,500 sq ft, even after joining two flats together to create lateral living across four buildings and thirteen windows. Residents are fully serviced by the Mandarin Oriental, which means that they can eat Heston Blumenthal’s food at the click of a button.
The reason we’ve sold £900 million of apartments so far is that London’s residential buildings aren’t great. Eaton Square, for example, might look great, but its houses aren’t functional for 21st-century life. With demand picking up at One Hyde Park — we’ve sold 60 per cent so far, including the three retail units to Rolex, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and McLaren — we should have paid the bank back by early February and own the development completely ourselves.
For me, it’s important that we did something correctly in the city that I was born — the greatest city on earth.