The Berkeley Story
Berkeley was founded in 1976. They wanted to create a new bespoke house-building company aimed at a niche market. Our first property was an elegant, four bedroom detached house in Surrey, sold for £30,000.
There were certain qualities that we held dear from the start and that have been hallmarks of Berkeley ever since: recruiting the best people; a niche strategy; individual service; and good design.
We wanted purchasing a Berkeley home to be like buying a suit in Savile Row. Something special and particular. A cut above the rest.
We developed fast during the ’80s and achieved a full listing on the London Stock Exchange in 1985. By 1988, we were the fifth fastest growing company in the country.
If you looked at British towns and cities during the ‘90s, they were full of abandoned sites with huge potential. The trick was to find a good location that was under-utilised. You looked for sites with the potential to be well-connected by public transport and well-served by local facilities. Places with character where you could create the kind of environment that people buy into.
And we found them – at Imperial Wharf in Fulham, Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, and many other locations. We took derelict, contaminated sites and turned them into desirable, high value locations, over and over again.
Good development depends on four things: vision, tenacity, and financial strength, combined with an ability to collaborate. Those are the ingredients at the heart of our success.
You need the vision to see the potential of a place.
The tenacity to cope with planning and the long-term nature of development.
Financial strength, so you make your own decisions and do what’s right at the right time.
And you must be happy to collaborate: this is not a game you can win on your own.
After the Millennium, Berkeley was booming like the rest of the industry. But we took another crucial decision in 2004, changed strategy and pulled back before the financial crisis broke in 2007.
It meant that Berkeley was not highly exposed and we could go back into the land market spending the next few years investing in some fantastic sites in prime locations across London.
Throughout these years, a philosophy has emerged based on the idea of placemaking. We don’t think of ourselves as housebuilders. We are not a volume business. Our niche in the market is defined by quality and value creation.
Berkeley’s job is to create fantastic homes in amazing places. Our ambition on every site is to build a beautiful, successful place.
Berkeley developments now range in size from a handful of homes in a market town like Cheltenham to complex, mixed-use regeneration schemes with 5,000 dwelllings.
We can take run-down estates in London like Kidbrooke or Woodberry Down and work with local people to transform them into strong communities.
Advice to readers and investors
Go for quality: buy from a trusted brand in a good location.
Look at the place: there’s more to it than just the apartment – look at the whole place and the facilities. Understand how it will be managed.
Do your research: consider local property values and find an area either with potential to improve or somewhere that is safe and predictable; then your asset should perform well over time.
Understand the price: get on top of the detail and be comfortable with the full cost of purchase. There should be no surprises.
This is not just a matter of re-housing people in slightly better homes. It involves reinventing the place. Bringing in shops and facilities. Designing handsome, useful public spaces. And thinking about how people relate to each other and live in a neighbourhood.
We have done extensive research looking at people’s quality of life and the strength of community in the places we build.
What it shows is that residents in Berkeley developments often feel safer, happier and more neighbourly than people who live in comparable places. They feel they belong. They regularly talk to their neighbours. And they plan to stay in the community.
We think about these issues on every site – whether it’s prime central London or a gentle part of Sussex. And it matters because, fundamentally, Berkeley is about placemaking. About people and community. Not just housebuilding.
Berkeley was founded in 1976 and over the past 41 years has established itself as being one of the most high profile developers of new homes in the UK. Today, the Berkeley Group has become synonymous with providing a home rather than a house and does not compromise on quality yet caters for a wide spectrum of customers.
The success of the business began with the strong, directed leadership of Tony Pidgley, who founded the business over 40 years ago and continues to oversee the entire Berkeley Group with its Chief Executive, Rob Perrins. The business is now split into 5 divisions, St Edward, St George, St James, St William and of course Berkeley – all of which have proven to be highly successful on an individual basis.
Pidgley started his path as an entrepreneur through his ownership of a haulage firm that he sold to Crest Nicholson in 1968. The success that Pidgley carved out of his haulage firm provided him with the skills, knowledge and understanding that would prove to be crucial in the continued success of Berkeley homes.
The Berkeley Group has established itself as being the most recognised housing developer in London, a market that the world is continually fighting for a share of. Despite the uncertainty of a ‘Post Europe’ Britain, Pidgley who was a self confessed ‘remain’ campaigner still believes that the UK can enjoy major success for the foreseeable future. Tony’s vision and leadership into the unknown is not to be overlooked. Over the last five years he appears to have struck gold for Berkeley shareholders once again. The housebuilder was not over-leveraged going into the financial crisis, was able to buy land at the bottom of the market and has reaped the benefits since, returning significant dividends back to shareholders.
This success should not be mistaken for good fortune and lucky timing. Hard work has been the common denominator in the success of the business. Tony is certainly no stranger to hard work, following his working class upbringing chopping down trees and selling logs and not so long after learning to drive a HGV and even dismantle an engine all by the age of 14.
Fast-forward 55 years and the 69 year old is now estimated to be worth in excess of £212 million. Despite his wealth and high profile surroundings Pidgley remains noticeably humble. He and Rob Perrins continue to steer the business to further success, although he will be the first to point out that the individual Berkeley businesses are autonomously managed by their individual Directors and staff.
As the business continues to grow from strength to strength, the Berkeley Group is now recognised as being one of the best developers in London and the South East. Footballers’ Life was fortunate enough to catch up with Tony to understand his views, opinions and advice on a number of topics:
Berkeley Homes established in Weybridge, Surrey, by Tony Pidgley and Jim Farrer
Berkeley Homes expands throughout the Home Counties and gains a reputation as a boutique housebuilder offering clients choice and individual attention
St George founded from a partnership with a commercial developer
Berkeley fully listed on the London Stock Exchange, with a market capitalisation of £67 million
Berkeley builds over 600 executive homes a year
Work starts on Barnes Waterside, building 321 homes around a nature reserve
St James established as a joint venture between Thames Water and the Berkeley Group
Berkeley Group awarded the UK’s highest accolade for business success: the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development
Berkeley begins the regeneration of Woodberry Down and Kidbrooke Village
Rob Perrins, Berkeley’s CEO, launches a 10 year strategy to make the business world class
Berkeley Foundation set up to support young people and their communities across London and the South of England
Berkeley Group voted Britain’s Most Admired Company across all industries
St William launched as a Joint Venture with National Grid
The business commits to go Carbon Positive as one of 10 commitments in the latest phase of its business strategy, called Our Vision.