Billionaire Candy brothers can't master the knack of winning friends in the City

Boastful property tycoons could do well to tone down the estate agent swagger after Chelsea FC setback

Property tycoon brothers Nick (left) and Christian Candy arrive at the Rolls Building in London as Nick Candy is expected to give evidence in the High Court dispute over a £12 million pound loan made to businessman Mark Holyoake.
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The first time I met the Candy brothers, Nick and Christian, was at their request. I’d written something they objected to and they wanted to put me, sorry, the record, straight.

I’d said that I couldn’t think of any major city in the world that would close a major road junction for a developer to complete a block of luxury flats. That’s what happened in the centre of Knightsbridge when their One Hyde Park project was being built. For months, Londoners had to endure traffic jams and delays trying to get across one of the busiest corners of the capital.

It was absurd and appeared to sum up London’s obsession with bling, putting the needs of potential jet-set purchasers of the apartments ahead of those of locals. For many, One Hyde Park, which was all steel and glass and not the most elegant of complexes, summed up all that was wrong with London at that time.

They chose an Italian restaurant near the building. In they walked, together, both wearing dark, sharp suits, white shirts, highly polished shoes. They were pleasant enough but there was an edge to their manner. What irked them they said was that part of the reason for the closure was so a new London Underground entrance and crossing could be installed, and this was down to Transport for London, not them. I got the impression they did not countenance criticism from any quarter. Still, fair enough, and I promised I would ensure that point was made. Nick told me how they were on good terms with my proprietor.

He was name-dropping and, perhaps, seeking to influence and impress. I realised in subsequent encounters it was par for the course where they were concerned. I’ve never met anyone who referenced the rich and famous as much as the Candy pair, especially the more gregarious, ebullient Nick.

C3KRGA ONE HYDE PARK the most expensive luxury residential property in the world developed by Nicholas and Christian Candy.

Compared with some in their industry, however, they were fresh and different. Sure, they were focused on the top end of the market, “super” or “uber” prime as it was known. They were not alone in that ― plenty of others were doing the same ― and they were making a success of it.

But, oh dear, cut the boasting. Their problem was that they did not know when to stop; they gushed hyperbole and extravagant claims. Always, they would litter the conversation with their celebrity, power contacts.

So when I saw in The Sunday Times that Nick was subjected to what in old Fleet Street would be described as a “right doing over” with the headline “Nick Candy: the toy town tycoon trying to play with the big boys” I could only smile.

A day later too came news that the Financial Times was renaming its How to Spend It magazine “HTSI”, which could mean “spend” or “save”, in a nod to the economic travails and people’s more straitened circumstances and that felt like a further kick in Nick’s gleaming white teeth. Suddenly, Nick Candy appeared to belong to a very different age.

What prompted the attack was criticism in the City that Nick had jumped the gun on a bid for THG, the beauty and digital shopping group. He’d issued a stock exchange statement saying he was considering taking over THG, which is worth £1.9 billion ($2.39bn).

If he was expecting warm applause in going for THG, which has tested investor patience these past few months amid allegations of poor governance, he did not get it. Quite the reverse. The reaction was one of scepticism, that here was Nick Candy, a property guy, pitching into another sector. And not in a small way, but right at the top with a mega-buy. Questions were raised also as to whether he really could raise this sort of money, as to how much of his own he would be putting in and who were his backers.

His bragging may be acceptable in property; indeed, estate agent swagger is an accepted part of the process. Elsewhere, it is not so well-received.

His track record away from gold and marble interiors had not been impressive. Plus, we’d been here before, and only very recently, with the declaration he was planning to purchase Chelsea Football Club from sanctions-hit Roman Abramovich. Candy maintained he had finance from South Korea, he had been supporting the football club since he was four and, true to form, he name-checked Chelsea legends John Terry and Frank Lampard as his friends. Despite that, his Blue Football Consortium fell at the first hurdle, failing to make the shortlist of bidders.

Again, in 2019, Nick’s Candy Ventures vehicle said it was contemplating going for the property company, Capital & Counties, then priced at £2.1bn. That was later followed by the news that Candy had withdrawn his interest.

He can’t help himself. His bragging may be acceptable in property; indeed, estate agent swagger is an accepted part of the process. Elsewhere, it is not so well received. That is especially the case in the arena of stock market listings. His words have the ability to affect other people’s investments and cash, and for that reason, rightly, it’s tightly regulated.

Nick would do well to keep his counsel, to remain tight lipped, to ensure he has all his ducks in a row in future before going public. Somehow, if he wants to be taken seriously in the City, Nick Candy has to learn the art of discretion. That may be beyond him, but he has no choice if he wants to play with the big boys.

Published: June 01, 2022, 11:41 AM