03 December 2005 – The Times
The billionaire brothers’ business philosophy is founded on buying assets they can touch and feel
IT OFFERS a brash contrast with the nearby Palace of Westminster, one a brash 1960s tower block, almost instantly forgettable, the other a national landmark, a magnet for tourists and, seemingly, for London’s stop-start traffic. Yet the Millbank Tower has its place in history. It was here, for example, that the Labour Party’s 1997 electoral campaign was formulated and put into action, ending an era of Conservative hegemony.
Two years later the Reuben brothers accentuated their reputation when they backed on two separate occasions £2 billion-plus takeovers of Chelsfield, the property empire founded by Elliott Bernerd.
The brothers are among the ten richest families in Britain and barely a week goes by without the investors adding another asset to their burgeoning business empire. The Bombay-born multibillionaires have a personal fortune conservatively estimated at more than £2.5 billion.
Most of their current deals are focused on property and private equity. Their investment philosophy is focused on asset-based deals that will offer growth in the medium to long term.
“We like to feel and see and touch what we own. Earnings can disappear, but no-one can take a building out of the ground,” Simon Reuben says.
“We are opportunists and when we see a deal in which we have an input, and feel that we can make a contribution in the improvements, give added value, then we tend to go for it.
“We are not at all interested in businesses we feel strangers to and go just for greed or that the grass is greener on the other side.”
David, the elder brother, adds: “We have established ourselves and are happy with our way of thinking.”
The brothers disclose limited financial information, but they often pay cash for deals and then refinance at a later date, giving them a keen advantage over competitors who need to spend weeks doing length due diligence to satisfy their bankers.
Typically, they prefer larger transactions and they work with all the major blue-chip banking institutions, including NM Rothschild, HBOS, UBS, Barclays and Deutsche Bank.
Their investments are made through a tax-efficient web of predominantly offshore companies incorporated in countries including Bermuda and Luxembourg.
The Reuben brothers may avoid the limelight, but they have often demonstrated a canny knack of being in the right place at the right time. After the Chelsfield takeover, for example, the Reubens are sitting on a 25 per cent slice of Stratford City, a huge slug of land in East London that has been earmarked for a £4 billion housing, shopping and office project — and which will include most of the Olympic village for the 2012 London Games. The site is expected to soar in value in the run-up to the Olympics.
Yet with the Reubens’ joint-venture partner, Multiplex, reeling from losses on its flagship contract to build the new Wembley stadium, predators, including Paul Bloomfield, the property entrepreneur, have been circling.
Multiplex was known to be listening to offers to sell its stake, but it is now understood that the Reubens have agreed to provide the Australian company with a substantial loan to help to refinance its share in all the assets acquired as part of the Chelsfield takeover.
Multiplex will technically retain ownership of its stake in Stratford City, but the Reubens’ loan will effectively give them underlying control.
They are widely regarded as being driven and Simon admits that he not only admires people who are self-made in business, but also those who are already wealthy but who are still motivated to work hard and improve themselves.
He has admitted that he only needs 1 per cent of his assets to live.
“Working is part of my life blood. I could just put my money in the bank, but I like to look at ways to raise my income, otherwise I feel that I am not being a good manager,” he has said.
The brothers are rumoured to have a Legacy private aircraft on order and they are building a luxury yacht in Germany that will be completed next year.
David admits: “Because of our background and how we were brought up, certain things do not change. However, we do not deprive ourselves of what is necessary or sometimes extravagant.”
Simon Reuben: has been married for more than 30 years to Joyce, with whom he has a daughter, Lisa, who works for Sotheby’s. Quiet and shy, his hobbies include film (one of his favourite movies is Casablanca) and the arts — he used to have an art gallery with Bill Collins, brother of Joan Collins, the actress. He is also a keen cricket fan. He spends most of his time in Monaco, where he is a resident, but he also has a villa in St Tropez and his wife has a luxury apartment in Knightsbridge, close to Harvey Nichols.
David Reuben: is married to Debra and has three grown-up children. He splits his time between London, Monaco and Florida and his hobbies include golf and reading. He most admires Baroness Thatcher, and his wife. “With Margaret Thatcher, what you saw was what you get. But she will be remembered in history for having made a fundamental change in the UK and the impact on the cold war and communism. Mostly she had courage and courage of her convictions,” he says. “Without my wife, I would be nothing. ”