Vincent Tchenguiz

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In 2005 the Times reported of Vincent Tchenguiz that 'In security, he has acquired 23 per cent of Strategic Communication Laboratories'[1] The Tchenguiz family trust and the Tchenguiz vehicle the Consensus Group became involved with SCL in late 2005 and new incorporation documents were written.[2]

a portrait

Tchenguiz has moved from his huge untidy desk to describe his latest money-making wheeze, marrying aircraft orders to carbon offsets. Normally he sits opposite a bank of 12 screens showing different markets with a television feed above and another bank of nine screens on his left. He may own or manage 300,000 residential buildings, run a £2bn commercial property empire and be immersing himself in green investments, but this is Tchenguiz's playroom.
He rattles off companies and countries that might be his business partners or merely parties he hopes to deal with. All the numbers are enormous. To anyone else it is fantasy, but to Tchenguiz it is real. He claims to trade $1.5bn (£750m) a day in currencies, futures and bonds. "We take intraday risk," he says. "I trade every day - even when I'm on holiday. I trade during lunch. I could be up or down during the meal." Making money is a passion that began during his childhood in Iran where his father had fled from Iraq in 1948. He grew up in Teheran with younger siblings Robert and Lisa, attending the American school. "I'm not that great at sports," he says, "so I moved my energies into business activity very early on."
He progressed from collecting empty Coke bottles to claim the deposits, to trading. "If you went to an American football game you could buy American chewing gum and chocolates and after you went out you sold it. I kept making money until the last match, when they spotted me and took all my goods. That was the first experience of losing money." Not the last, though. When the 1970s bull market ended, Tchenguiz had his fingers burned. "I had an options portfolio that expired worthless," he admits. But every loss is a lesson. "I convinced the family I needed new money. My father sent me $500,000, then we went on trading futures and foreign exchange and gold." In 1984 Tchenguiz came to London and joined Prudential Bache, trading futures as a senior vice-president then doing the same thing at Shearson Lehman. Meanwhile, Robert, four years younger, was building a London property empire and, encouraged by their father, Vincent gave up the day job to join him. "I thought there was financial arbitrage in property because yields were above gilts," he says. "The key was the tenants. The property is irrelevant: we have good cashflows."
Their Rotch company bought £4bn of property in three years, funded by £3.5bn of debt. Investing in finance companies secured sources of funds and by securitising the debt it was bundled off the balance sheet allowing Rotch to borrow more - though the balance sheet is hidden by offshore ownership. Tchenguiz ignored convention and applied actuarial techniques to value his property on cashflow - thus putting a £5bn value on the £4bn portfolio. Such high levels of debt might disturb the sleep of others, but as a dealer and trader, Tchenguiz is unfazed by massive positions. And his actuarial side taught him to manage risks - a lesson learned on the futures desks. To him, developing is risky, not borrowing, and being highly geared in a booming property market was a licence to print money. And so it has been: the brothers were valued at £850m on a recent rich list. For years Rotch was the most aggressive buyer in town, but now it is being wound down with just £2bn of property left and the brothers have gone their separate ways.
The brothers still talk every day but clearly have different temperaments. Vincent is as unkempt as Robert is smooth. Robert likes long-term assets and is trying to force Sainsbury and Mitchells & Butlers to realise their property value; his dealer brother has bought estate agents and ground rents. The elder Tchenguiz admits to a sibling rivalry back in Iran. Asked to discuss their differences he says: "You're getting into a topic Robert does not like." Pushed, however, he discloses: "He's much more hands-on; I'm less so. He's creative in his own way. I tend to jump a lot of boundaries; he likes to work out what he's comfortable with." Is Robert as much a numbers man as his brother? "He's numerate now," says Vincent, guardedly. Is he a dealer? "No, not an intra-day dealer. We do have competitive tension."
Vincent's new company is the anonymous Consensus Business Group. He is not above vanity, however, with a taste for personalised number plates, but while both brothers' playboy lifestyles have filled gossip columns, Robert has now married while his older brother remains single. "Slowing down yes, settling down, never," jokes Vincent. He has houses in Mayfair, South Africa and a home on the Côte d'Azur, where he keeps his boats - a 130-foot Mangusta motor yacht that cost €15m (£10m), two €1m launches and now two former Royal Navy tenders. The toybox also includes five Rolls-Royces, two Bentleys, an Aston Martin, a purple Lamborghini and six four-wheel drive vehicles. An aide had to help with the list but Tchenguiz sees no conflict between this fleet of gas guzzlers and his new interest in carbon offsets and environmental investments. "I'm doing it to make money," he states bluntly. "The numbers are colossal."
But not all the multinationals' names he flashes are clients. EADS was surprised to be quoted as a partner of Consensus and Abu Dhabi has rebuked Tchenguiz for claiming the credit for a fund. At least that vehicle is set up: most of the country-based clean-technology funds he rattles through are still ideas in Tchenguiz's active mind. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other ideas in Tchenguiz's head. He has invested in the company exploiting Imperial College's innovations and talks of a synergy from applying such greenery to his portfolio of residential freeholds and Britain's new housing. The concept is either very simple or extremely complex - and perhaps only Tchenguiz knows which. He makes it sound complicated, however, adding: "At the moment we have no competition; it's going to be very difficult for anybody to come near."
Tchenguiz's motivator is money. Even when he and his brother played poker it was a profit centre, he says, claiming: "In the 1980s we could make £1m a year." Wouldn't playing for matchsticks give the same thrill? "The money makes the difference," he replies. "Matchsticks would not help. For a while it was casinos but not now. Two or three years ago we started betting on football." Greece's European Championship victory won him £1m. But if he treats gaming as business, business at times looks like a game. In the tight world of property trading he is as likely to be bidding with his rivals as against them. During last year's £1bn takeover of housebuilder McCarthy & Stone, Tchenguiz swapped his support from one bidder to the other to ensure he ended up on the winning side and secured the freeholds. "It is a game," he concedes. "And it is business. But it's a game we want to win. The business is just a medium of doing it." The trader interrupts again with an updated price. Tchenguiz barks back: "Sell."[3]


  1. Jenny Davey 'Tchenguiz turns focus to green projects' The Times (London), January 31, 2006, Tuesday Pg. 45
  2. Written Resolution to adopt new articles of association, company number 05514098, Strategic Communication Laboratories, 7 November 2005
  3. Business profile: The fantasy world of Vincent, the other Tchenguiz brother Last Updated: 11:55pm BST 26/05/2007 Business is a game the private equity billionaire with a playboy lifestyle is in to win, says Richard Northedge