Berkeley Group's Tony Pidgley: I got lucky

You Live and you Learn: Tony Pidgley, founder and Group Chairman of Berkeley Group, on his relationship with his son, growing up with nothing, and sticking to simple business principles.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 31 May 2013

My first wife always felt I should never have got married, because the only thing I was in love with was Berkeley. And divorce does upset children. My relationship with my son has had its moments [Pidgley junior attempted to take over his father's company in 2003] but it is superb today and he's a much better person for it. He's running his own venture very successfully, and we don't discuss business.

I grew up in a practical environment. My parents did all sorts of things, from demolition and tree felling to supplying logs. They did what made money, and the natural progression was for me to do the same. I started off in haulage aged 16. I got very lucky and sold the business to Crest when I was 20, then set up Berkeley Homes a few years later.

If you grew up with nothing, you have a fear about getting the business right. There's no magic answer. It's a combination of integrity, common sense, self-belief and a good balance sheet. In the boom times, Berkeley could have borrowed a lot more, but we keep it conservative.

The Vauxhall helicopter crash was a major tragedy. We had followed regulations - our cranes were lit and the pilot was 500 feet lower than he should have been. Berkeley has only seen a few tragedies in three decades, but it's horrible when they do happen and I hate that part of it.

I scribble all over the place. I'm not meticulous but I note down all sorts of things - if a presentation we gave wasn't good enough, for example, I'll write it down.

I keep track of all the financials. My dad had a very simple book with three columns of figures: '£10 we paid for that horse, son, write that down.' The other two columns recorded how much we were offered and how much we sold it for. I've applied the same pattern ever since. It's that basic.

President Hollande has killed France's property market by taxing it. People say that rich people come here and inflate the prices, but that's only in Mayfair. They spend money here and we need them. It doesn't affect normal people who want to get on the property ladder.

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