24 February 2012 – The Times
A heliport in London that has been graced by the likes of Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, Jackie Onassis, Steve McQueen and Ken Livingstone has been acquired by the billionaire Reuben brothers.
David and Simon Reuben, who in January agreed a £200 million takeover of the racecourse operator Arena Leisure, are buying London Heliport in Battersea from Andrew Davis, the controversial founder of Von Essen Hotels.
Their Aldersgate Investments vehicle is understood to have secured a deal in the face of competition from Mark Coombs, the chief executive of Ashmore Group, the fund manager, and a consortium led by the Matrix investment group.
The brothers already own London Oxford airport, which is just over 20 minutes away by helicopter.
London Heliport is allowed to handle up to 12,000 landings and take-offs a year, with users being charged between £750 and £1,000 per movement. It also provides parking and refuelling services.
It is the only commercial heliport in the capital that is licenced by the Civil Aviation Authority and is used by the air ambulance and police air support units. It also has an exemption to the no-fly zone during the Olympics, with numerous dignitaries and other VIPs expected to use London Heliport to attend the Games.
One of the heliport’s biggest customers is PremiAir Aviation, which is still controlled by Mr Davis.
The sale represents a further unravelling of the business empire built up by Mr Davis over the past 20 years. His Von Essen Hotels chain collapsed into administration last year owing the banks £300 million and the majority of the properties have now been sold off.
Mr Davis paid an estimated £50 million for the heliport in 2007 with debt funding from Lloyds although that included a development site for a hotel, which opened in 2010. The Hotel Verta went into administration shortly after Von Essen and was sold in December for less than £20 million.
Separately, The Times understands that the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, one of Von Essen’s top hotels, with a guide price of £22.5 million, is close to being sold to Topland, the property vehicle of Eddie and Sol Zakay.
Topland, which owns the Brighton Metropole, the Glasgow Hilton and five Thistle hotels, stepped in when a sale to the Livingstone brothers fell through. The group, which declined to comment, is believed to be paying about £18 million and to be planning a multimillion-pound restoration.
Note: The Reuben Brothers purchased The London Heliport in February 2012, for £35million