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|Born||Finchley, north London, England|
|Net worth||£900 million (2012)|
Having made his fortune through supplying Hong Kong manufactured fashion, after a near-death experience during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, he has greatly diversified his business interest into restaurants and nightclubs, and increased his charitable contributions. Caring is ranked number 112 on the 2012 Sunday Times Rich List.
Caring is the middle child of three children born to Louis Caringi, a Catholic Italian-American GI, stationed in London during World War II, and Sylvia Parnes, the married Jewish-immigrant nurse who met him in the ambulance on his way to hospital, and cared for him during his recovery. After deciding to stay in London post-war, the couple married. Caringi anglicized his surname and set up in the clothing industry in offices off Great Portland Street, north of Oxford Street. Louis Caring Originals sourced knitwear for retailers including Marks & Spencer.
Richard was brought up in Finchley, north London, and enjoyed playing Monopoly. His sporting prowess at golf playing off of scratch, resulted in him representing Middlesex at county-level, and being accepted into Millfield School in Street, Somerset on a 10-shilling-a-week sporting scholarship.
|“||My parents thought it important I got practical work experience - they weren't bothered about university. I understand the thought process, "Let's throw him into work." But looking back, I would very much have liked to go to university. You get a much broader mindset.||”|
However, the family business was in trouble. In the designer-led 1960s, Caring's father didn't understand fashion, and the resulting losses in the business threatened losing the family home. At the time, Louis Caring Originals had become a dress manufacturer that employed seven people. Caring had a girlfriend at the Royal College of Art, with whom he ran up a range of mini-skirts, selling them for 69s 6d (£3.475 in decimalisation), that cost us £2 to make. With an initial target was 200 a week, after a few years they were selling 25,000 a week:
|“||We saved the house in the end. Maybe that's why I'm driven, because I saw it all happen at a young age.||”|
In 1971 Caring first visited Hong Kong, where labour and materials were far cheaper than in Britain. Until this point, Hong Kong made basic clothing cheaply, such as underpants. Spending a year living out of a suitcase and resident in one hotel, Caring educated local manufacturers through producing the same garment over and over again to get the quality right. Resultantly one of the first western high fashion buyers to develop localised Chinese relationships, he returned to the UK to sell the new high quality but cheaper garments to UK retailers.
Forming International Clothing Designs (ICD) to exploit the new opportunity, Caring moved his family permanently to Hong Kong in 1979. Due to its international trading nature, the companies structure and holdings are complex, held through a series of off-shore companies and trusts, making it hard to detect Caring’s full earnings from the fashion world. The manoeuvre worked, and Caring cornered the market in fast fashion. ICD at its height supplied 70% of the clothing sold by British high street retailers, supplying Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and Next.
It was through ICD and its trading that he met and developed his relationship with Sir Philip Green, the fashion retailer. Up to this day, ICD is the dominant supplier to Arcadia Group, the Green-owned fashion retail chain that includes Dorothy Perkins, Topshop and Top Man. This was not the normal retailer and supplier set-up but described as more of a partnership, with Caring presenting Green with a Ferrari F430 Spider for his 50th birthday:
|“||I speak to him every day. We're more than friends - I think we'd do anything for each other. We're like brothers. We've grown up together and experienced lots of good times and tough times.||”|
For less than a year, Caring worked for Green, and he is still a supplier to the chain.
Caring supplied Next via a joint venture company NV, but sold his share in the 1990s back to the retailer. He also built a joint venture to supply Freemans catalogues, again now sold to the partner. He also co-developed the Together brand, which after buying out partners he sold to German catalogue firm Otto Versand. In 2004/5, ICD saw sales drop to £74.2m from £85.5m, making a pre-tax loss of £523,644 from a £3.99m profit the year before after an exceptional loss on the sale of designer label Amanda Wakeley. In 2007, Caring looked at buying the distressed Prada brand.
ICD is a smaller operation in the UK than it was, but still today employs 250 people, focused for expansion on selling into the United States. Based between Fitzroy Square and Euston Road, Caring's office is a bespoke built top-floor addition, with a fully equipped bar and a roof terrace that faces south across the West End. His personal office includes drawings by Degas, a Matisse, and a Henry Moore sculpture bronze of a mother and child, lifted in by crane.
It is proposed by many that Caring first started investing in property while resident in Hong Kong, ploughing back profits from clothing sourcing into other assets. His first UK publicised deal was the £40m purchase of a large part of the Camden Market complex in 2004.
Later that same year his friend Elliott Bernard called him to see whether, as an avid golfer, he might be interested in buying Wentworth Golf Club. In partnership with then minority shareholder, airport hotel entrepreneur Surinder Arora, the pair paid £130m, £50m more than the club’s book value at the time:
|“||As a sporting facility in the UK there is nothing similar. Wentworth is to golf what Wimbledon is to tennis. It's priceless. There's only one Wentworth in the world.||”|
Restaurants and private member's clubs
After buying Wentworth, Caring realised he needed to raise the standard of food. He approached his favourite restaurant Le Caprice in summer 2005, but as discussions deteriorated Caring joked it was costing him so much he might as well buy the whole Caprice Holdings group; it emerged that the management was looking for a buyer.
Six weeks later, after selling designer evening wear label Amanda Wakeley, Caring secured a £31.5m deal to take over Caprice Holdings, owner of The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey, as well as Italian restaurant Daphne’s, Vietnamese restaurant Bam-Bou.
Caring began to reshape the group, which created much media coverage for someone who previously preferred to stay out of the limelight. In 2005 he added fish restaurant Scott’s and catering firm Urban Productions, but sold Pasha to Algerian restaurateur Tony Kitous. He also bought Signature Restaurants from Luke Johnson for £57m, owner of mid-market Strada and Belgo chains. In 2006 he bought Rivington, a two-restaurant group independently set up by Caprice Holding’s chef director Mark Hix. After rapidly expanding Strada in 18 months, he sold it on for £145m, before buying the Bath & Racquets Club and George. In 2007 he purchased the Birley Group (Annabel's, Harry's Bar, Mark's Club) for £95m including the vast art collection, concluded just a few months before Mark Birley’s death. In 2008 he agreed a leveraged buyout of 28 small investors in private members club Soho House, taking 80% for £105m, with the remainder held by Nick Jones who remains CEO, also his partner in Cecconi’s. Caring also owns stakes in Cote (formed by the former management team of Strada), and Alternative Investment Market listed chain Carluccio's.
The speed with which Caring has built his restaurant chain has resulted in many questioning his reasoning, on both a strategic level as well as the high purchase prices paid. He has been dubbed by some as "the Lex Luther of Mayfair" for his apparent supermarket-sweep approach to buying companies. Other critics say he is brandishing a credit card, playing a high-stakes game of Monopoly, buying every square he lands on. Further, a caricature appeared in Tatler magazine of Caring as James Bond villain Blofeld, stroking a white cat.
But Caring insists he has a masterplan:
|“||I spotted an international gap in the market. In the restaurant business, there are single brands, but not a group of brands - which is what we do. There is only one Ivy, one Annabel's - there is nothing like them. A group of top-notch brands like them - that is what we're trying to achieve. There is a grand plan and it starts with building strength in London.||”|
- Annabel's - including the Birley clubs (Mark's, Harry's Bar, George and Bath & Racquets), 12,000 members: He says "They're refined, discreet, elegant."
- Soho House - 17,000 members: He says "They're for an arts, journalistic, younger crowd."
- Caprice - 30,000 regular customers, the restaurant link between the two club chains
These brands are now being rolled out across the globe, with openings including: Le Caprice New York; Cecconi's Miami; Soho House, via £130m credit line supplied by HBoS, in Berlin, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.
|“||He’s setting up the restaurant equivalent of LVMH. He’s spending a lot more on these businesses than they’re probably worth, but eventually he’ll have a portfolio that, as a brand, is worth far more than the sum of its parts.||”|
A friend of Lord Levy, Caring lent £2m to the Labour Party to fund the United Kingdom general election, 2005. Caring was not later implicated or named as part of the Cash for Honours investigation. The loan monies have since been repaid.
|“||I get hugely disappointed when politics comes before sense. London as a city and England as a country are being damaged for no good reason other than political ones.||”|
Following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Caring immediately donated £1m to the relief effort.
Caring supports the NSPCC, donating £3.5m a year to the charities Fresh Start centre in Camden, to combat child abuse and paedophilia. In 2005, he organised a charity costume “Napoleonic Ball” for the NSPCC in St Petersburg's Catherine Palace, Russia, featuring a performance by Sir Elton John. Caring spent £8m flying in 450 guests in by private jet, including Bob Geldof and former US president Bill Clinton, raising £11m.
Caring spotted his future wife, Aldershot-born model Jacqueline Stead, born on the 9th of January in 1948, the daughter of a retired British Army major, who was brought up in Shenfield, Essex and attended the Brentwood Ursuline Convent School, at a catwalk show. She gave up modelling three days after the couple met. The couple have two sons, who were raised in Hong Kong: Jamie, a vice-president of MTV Networks Europe; and Ben, who works for Soho House.
The family live in Hampstead, north London, in a house known as the Versailles of London. It has a 55 feet (17 m) ballroom, a cinema, a dining room that seats 30; and a 2 acres (0.0081 km2) garden with a lake. The couple also have homes in Hong Kong, and own the former stables of Pixton Park in Dulverton, on the Somerset/Devon borders. Bought in 2005, it has an interior designed by Tara Bernerd, daughter of Elliott Bernerd, and is presently subject to a planning application for a "Winter Palace". Extending to 500 acres (2.0 km2), the property was purchased to allow Caring to enjoy his hobby of shooting, and also holds a pet-holding of deer.
His friends include Sir Philip Green, Scottish philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter, and property developer Robert Tchenguiz, with whom he plays poker. His family relations include stockbroker Anthony Parnes and his son Michael Parnes, CEO of stock brokerage Old Park Lane Capital.
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
In 2004 over the Christmas period, Caring and his sons were scuba diving in the Maldives. On Boxing Day, the dive-master suggested they sail to an atoll and dive nearby. Anchored on the northside of the atoll, they dived to 100 feet (30 m) for 45 minutes. On their return to the surface, Caring received calls from friends around the world asking: "Are you all right?"
Protected by the atoll, the divers had "felt a blip, but it could have been a big boat." Divers on the southside of the atoll in the path of the tsunami were later found washed-up 100 miles (160 km) away. Sir Philip Green sent his private jet to pick the family up, and Caring donated £1million to the tsunami relief fund:
|“||My two sons nearly drowned with me. After you've experienced something like that, you examine things for a couple of hours and think, "I must smell the roses." Did I see the light? No. But it does change the way you think, the way you look at the world.||”|
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