|Born||Nicholas Mark Leslau
18 August 1959 (age 55)
Cricklewood, North London, England
|Residence||Mayfair, London, England|
|Education||Mill Hill School|
|Employer||Prestbury Investment Holdings|
|Known for||Property development and investment|
|Net worth||£200 million|
Nick Leslau (born 18 August 1959) is an English commercial property millionaire, with an estimated fortune in the Sunday Times Rich List of £200 million. He owns Thorpe Park and other UK properties such as Alton Towers which he leases to Merlin Entertainment.
The son of a father who was a jeweller and skilled part-time art historian, his parents divorced when he was nine. His mother subsequently worked full time so that Leslau could be educated at a preparatory school in Hampstead, and at Mill Hill School. Due to his then poverty and the fact his mother converted to Catholicism, Leslau didn't have his barmitzvah until the age of 28 – which he describes as a $250 quickie at the Wailing Wall – to marry his wife Maxine. He was born into a poverty stricken family which led to his parents divorcing.
As a teenager, Leslau took a job helping the local milkman for 50p a round, and later buying umbrellas in bulk to resell at a market stall. Aged 17, Leslau became manager of the Late Late Store, a grocery shop in Belsize Park – one of his pizza buying customers was ex-Mill Hill old boy and City financier Nigel Wray.
Leslau left a degree studying German at the University of Warwick, to study surveying. After meeting Sam Rosen, Leslau joined the ground rent company of commodities traders Burford Group. He became a chartered surveyor with the Burford, rising to junior partner in 1982. Age 23, Leslau became Chief Executive and, wanting to move further into property, met Wray again through business contacts, with the pair engineering a reverse takeover of Wray's listed company Chartsearch in 1986 for £8 million. They expanded the company into a £1 billion enterprise, buying large parts of Oxford Street and the Trocadero centre. However, a poor deal with Sega in the creation of SegaWorld as an anchor tenant meant the company went through some difficult times.
In 1997, Leslau and Wray started their own small property company Maybeat Limited, which they reversed into one of Michael Edelson's Alternative Investment Market listed shell companies called Prestbury Group plc.
The board consisted of Leslau, Wray, Viscount Astor, John Hodson (the then chief executive of private bank Singer & Friedlander) and Edelson. Over the next two years it produced a return of 150% on Net Asset Value and Leslau grew its total value to several hundreds of millions of pounds before taking it private in 2004.
In 1999, Leslau set up an investment vehicle, Edenhawk, together with friends Wray, Archie Norman and Julian Richer. Once again, they reversed into an Edelson shell company, Knutsford Plc. The intention was to acquire a retail business to take advantage of the retailing skills of Norman (the former Chairman of Asda) and Richer, who had built up the dynamic retail group Richer Sounds.
Within days of the transaction being announced, Knutsford had caught the imagination of the media and within weeks the value of the investment vehicle had soared to £1 billion, attracting attention from financial media around the world as potential acquisition targets were touted by the media such as Marks & Spencers and Sainsburys.
The overly speculative valuation was far in excess of anything the "Knutsford 4" and Edelson had anticipated and was in fact becoming problematic particularly because it proved a major stumbling block to concluding any deal. Although Knutsford eventually concluded a deal with WI Link (which continues to trade successfully), it could never hope to achieve the dizzy expectations generated by the media in the weeks after flotation.
After Knutsford; in February 2001 Leslau set up private company Prestbury Investment Holdings, funded by HBOS and Sir Tom Hunter, with whom he has since done a number of Scottish based joint ventures with Hunter's West Coast Capital. Leslau is now chairman and chief executive of PIHL, with the company presently owning a property portfolio estimated to be worth in excess of £4 billion, including four of the UK's largest entertainment complexes run by Merlin Entertainments (Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds).
Leslau and his wife Maxine live in a £30 million property he bought in Mayfair, London. The couple have three sons, and own a Mediterranean based yacht. As a lover of sport, Leslau owns one of W.G. Grace's cricket bats, and is a part owner of Saracens F.C. Rugby Union club.
Thanks to his friend Tom Hunter, Leslau became interested in solving the world's problems: in 2006 they had a working holiday in Ayacucho, Peru; in 2007 to Malawi to help build an orphanage. In early 2008, Leslau took part in the Channel 4 programme Secret Millionaire, giving away £400,000 in a ten-day visit to Possil, Glasgow.
- "Nick Leslau". London: Sunday Times. 27 April 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
- "Property tycoons who owe billions". London: Sunday Times. 13 November 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
- "Nick Leslau: 'I'm rich, but does anyone like me?'". London: Daily Telegraph. 19 August 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
- Kemp, Kenny (10 February 2002). "How the Westway was won by tycoon". Sunday Herald. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
- "Interview with Nick Leslau". Mischon. Summer 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
- "Interview with Archie Norman". management Today. 3 September 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2008.[dead link]
- "Merlin sells Alton Towers in £622m deal". The Independent (London). Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2007.
- "Nick Leslau". Channel 4. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
- "Exclusive: The property tycoon who gave away £225,000 to Possil's poorest after undercover mission". Daily Record. 14 August 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2008.[dead link]