Tony Pidgley on Berkeley Group's demotion from FTSE 100, giving up his six-figure salary and solving London's housing crisis

Shruti Tripathi Chopra
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For 2015/16, Pidgley received a total remuneration package of £21.5m compared to £23m the year before

Berkeley Homes bowed out of the FTSE 100 following the Brexit vote last year but founder and chairman Tony Pidgley CBE isn’t perturbed.

“I don’t run Berkeley for whether it's in or out of the FTSE 100. I run Berkeley because Berkeley does what it does well,” Pidgley tells City A.M.

“I couldn’t control Brexit and I couldn’t control stamp duty and I can’t control what the FTSE 100 does. As long as we look after our people and do what we do well I’m not bothered about what the FTSE 100 does,” he barks.

Read more: Berkeley shares jump after changing investor return strategy

Pidgley’s doing something right. The housebuilder has seen a 34 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £392.7m in the six months to the end of October last year, up from £293.3m over the same period the previous year.

He has been richly rewarded for his success. For 2015/16, Pidgley received a total remuneration package of £21.5m compared to £23m the year before.

Over the past few years, the property tycoon has drawn criticism over his pay package.

Pidgley, whose worth over £250m, says he doesn’t want to “justify” his pay but attributes his bumper remuneration package on long-term share schemes.

Read more: Berkeley Group drops out of FTSE 100 in quarterly shuffle

“In April this year I've given up my salary which means I've given up my bonuses,” he explains.

However, he could still make millions this year as Berkeley’s remuneration committee has capped his payouts from long-term incentive plans albeit at a cool £8.2m.

From zero to hero

The 69-year-old has a classic zero-to-hero life story. Adopted at the age of four, Pidgley left school aged 15 to set up his own company in haulage and plant hire.

By 19, he sold his company to Crest Homes and joined them as a building director.

Read more: Berkeley Group just had a huge rant at the government about London housing

In 1975, Crest Homes’ late managing director Jim Farrer and Pidgley quit their jobs to set up Berkeley Homes.

Even though the property magnate struggled to read or write, he wears his unconventional upbringing like a badge of honour.

“I was brought up by what people like to called ‘gypsies’ but they were very hardworking people.

“One night I didn’t do my chores and I got locked out. So I had a little wander about at night and came across an ice cream parlour and climbed in through the window.

Read more: Berkeley Group looks up as Pidgley spends £800k on shares

“I was sitting on the floor having ice cream and along came two policemen. I got into a lot of trouble at home as you can imagine for that. My parents gave me a strong foundation,” he reminisces.

The multi-millionaire “accepts there needs to be more balance in the society”.

“There is a bubble called London that’s gone out of kilter to the rest of the world. But equally we mustn’t kill ambition or aspiration.

“We shouldn’t take the ambition away from you to want to build up, if you wanted to, a chain of shops,” he adds.

Solving London's housing crisis

A topic that gets Pidgley talking is the bureaucracy that the property sector faces. He feels that reducing red tape is the answer to London’s housing crisis.

“When a housebuilder like me, who has been building houses for half a century, submits a planning permission I should be in accordance with all the rules. If I break the rules, fine me. But take out the red tape and bureaucracy.

Read more: Berkeley Group has suspended a £20m development in Barnes

The only way you can get more properties in the UK is by more production, that’s the answer to thehousing crisis,” he points out.

Retirement plans

Pidgley clears loves his job, “working hard is in his DNA,” he says.

He bats off any suggestions about retirement.

“Me working seven days a week never bothered me. I’m happy with it, I don’t moan about it and I have the stamina. In fact, I was out every day this week,” he boasts.

“I was born to do what I do and I will die doing what I do. I have one rule about this [retirement], the day I become senile and stupid then I must leave. But that will be a long time, I hope.”

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