Peter John de Savary : The man behind a thousand ventures

by Ray Clancy on October 10, 2008

Who is Peter de Savary?If ever there was one UK property entrepreneur who epitomised the good times and the bad times in the UK property sector over the last 40 years it has to be the infamous Peter de Savary, the man behind a thousand investments, the face of Hello magazine and the man who has quite literally been there, done it, worn the t-shirt and gone back for another one.  

The life story of Peter de Savary is a joy to behold and whether you love him or you hate him there is no doubt he has led a colourful life!


In true fashion there are many myths, lies and untruths about the life and times of Peter de Savary but let us try to unravel the serial entrepreneur with a habit of self imploding :-

The early years

As you might have guessed where Peter de Savary is concerned, there are no details about his place of birth on Wikipedia so we thought a quick look at his personal website might do the trick – ‘Born 11 July 1944 on a farm in England’ – well that just about says it all!

It is strange to think that Peter de Savary is only 64 as he literally seems to have been around for ever and a day.  Details about the early years of Peter de Savary are very few and far between suffice as to say that he began his business career at the ripe old age of 16 working and learning all about the shipping and oil industry.

This is what led to de Savary’s first business success with the creation of a shipping empire which saw him own or manage 13 shipyards around the world. He still owns a shipyard to this day and has retained his global oil-trading and refueling business which must have done very well over the last 12 months.

The de Savary property empire

The two great loves of Peter de Savary have always been the hospitality industry and the property markets and luckily he managed to join the two, setting up the St. James Club chain in the 1970s.  This venture had operations in London, Paris, Antigua and Los Angeles and was one of the first high class gentleman’s meeting club network in the UK.  This venture was sold for in excess of £4 million in the late 1980s at which point his love affair with true property investments began to unfold.

Skibo Castle

There are many who have knocked the track record of Peter de Savary but the move to acquire Skibo Castle in highlands of Scotland for £4 million turned out to be a master stroke allowing the man himself to create the ultimate members only hotel and club.  The castle itself dates back to the 12th century, is set in one of the most beautiful areas of the world and was the venue for the wedding of Guy Ritchie and Madonna.

The Carnegie Club is still going strong to this day and de Savary has managed to ensure that Skibo Castle is a favourite of the rich and famous, resulting in a constant source of visitors for the future.  As his property empire began to grow Peter de Savary moved on to some of the most famous landmarks in the UK.

Land’s End

Land’s End has a prominent place in the UK property sector because it is actually the most westerly tip of the southern mainland and a very popular tourist destination.  While there are few details about the price which Peter de Savary paid for the land and properties he was the one who changed the outlook of the area forever.  

After creating two new buildings to mark and exploit its position on the UK map he then put the wheels in motion for development of the theme park which is still there today. 

John o’ Groats

Around about the time that he acquired Land’s End, Peter de Savary unveiled a master plan as he acquired John o’ Groats which is widely considered to be the most northerly point of mainland Britain.  The site came with a landmark hotel and meant that the de Savary empire now included two of the most iconic beauty spots in the UK – excellent for the tourist trade.

Disaster strikes

While the de Savary empire was in full flow in the 1980s and the man himself was in every celebrity and business magazine you could think of, disaster was just around the corner with the recession which followed the stock market crash of 1987.  In debt up to his eyeballs and seeing his businesses struggle, Peter de Savary’s empire went under owing a massive £715 million to creditors.  

Was this the end of Peter de Savary, had the great man bitten the dust?

Phoenix from the flames

Like an escape artists Peter de Savary somehow managed to come out of his personal trauma a fitter and leaner businessman who would not make the same mistakes again.  While he is not in the press as much as he once was (something which he always seemed to enjoy) he managed to retain his Skibo Castle project although he was forced to let Land’s End and John o’ Groats go in order to keep the creditors off his back.

He has now moved into the worldwide property market and is currently rumoured to own a plantation in South Carolina, Stapleford Park and Bovey Castle in England, Carnegie Abbey in Rhode Island all of which offer hospitality services of the highest order, golf courses and other amenities for the rich and famous.

Conclusion

There are few property business people who have attracted such adulation and contempt in equal measures as Peter de Savary.  He has courted controversy wherever he has gone, he has fallen foul of the law on numerous occasions, being subjected to one of the largest bankruptcies in UK history but he still comes out fighting.

He seems to be the kind of man who lets you know what he wants you to know, but there are few hiding places for a man with his business acumen and ego to go with it.

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