Tony Pidgley of Berkeley Homes. This is a very short biography of the founder of Berkeley homes, Tony Pidgley. Like all of our biographies it comes at the subject solely from our point of view – what can we learn from this person or business that we can apply today in our business.
He was born 6th August 1947 in Surrey
Parents: His mum was a single mother, he was brought up in a Barnardo’s home. (Barnardo’s is a children’s charity).
Adoptive parents: He was adopted by Bill and Florence Pidgley, travellers living near Kingston upon Thame. (Traveller like the itinerant, is a more modern, ‘PC’ version of the word Gypsy, although we see nothing wrong or offensive about the word Gypsy)
Very little, he left school at fifteen years of age.
He worked with his adoptive family selling logs in the local region at a very small scale.
They cut down trees, cut them into logs and sold them. Whether they owned the trees they cut down, is anyone’s guess.
He started driving lorries in his early teens and became well versed with buying and selling as well as the haulage business.
Pidgley had worked as a landscape gardener and saved up enough money for his first lorry. He then started his own haulage business collecting up to forty vehicles.
The young man then sold this business to the house builder Crest and took a job with them. (Crest are now known as Crest Nicholson)
In 1976 he was sacked from Crest (or more likely he left) and promptly set up his own house building operation with Jim Farrer who was working with him at Crest.
Together, they formed a new housebuilding company, Berkeley Homes (now the Berkeley Group)
They built houses on small sites never building more than one hundred homes a year. They floated on the unlisted securities market and grew to building up to 600 houses a year.
He foresaw this crash and planned accordingly. He sold all his properties fast before the crash properly took hold. After the crash he bought up sites around London at bargain prices.
There is a story that says he sold his properties once a customer bought him a crate of champagne because they had just made £100,000 on a house he had sold them. The meaning being that the property market was seriously overheating when this sort of transaction was possible.
By 1991 he was buying land cheap and was able to move into building in and around London. He consistently built more and more properties.
Interestingly, for a man with little or no background in Economics, he foresaw this crash too and planned accordingly. Again, his strategy was sell as much as you can before the crash, and then buy once the property market is in a slump and prices are low.
He foresaw the increase in popularity of city living and bought brownfield sites in London while he could get them at a low rate.
He developed riverside units all across London and partnered with local councils to deliver schemes at large scale.
Uneducated, great negotiator, hard worker.
He was interested in horse dressage in later life with his new wife.
He was married with two children. Married first in 1966 and divorced in 1999.
Pidgley married his new wife in 2001 and had two children.
He passed away 26 June 2020, he was 72.
Lesson 1 – Repeatedly we find in our profiles that education does not matter. It does no harm of course but lack of it will not stop the top businessmen from succeeding.
Lesson 2 -Trade is a great way of making money. His family made ends meet when they were selling timber logs. His first business was a simple haulage business. They did not invest some new business.
Lesson 3- Be aware of the property cycle. There will be boom and there will be bust. Sell at boom level and buy at bust level. It takes a couple of years for the cycles to change so be patient. This is obviously very difficult but the sample property players keep working this system.
Lesson 4 – Try avoid separation and divorce. Apart from the personal aspect it is is killer to your finances.
Lesson 5 – People die early. He passed away at 72 which is early enough. You have to make everyday count.