Insurance tycoon Sir Peter Wood has turned to high-end property to bolster his already substantial fortune.
The 71-year-old, thought to be worth around £800million after setting up Direct Line, Esure, Sheilas’ Wheels and Go Compare, is developing a string of luxury homes in Britain and the United States.
The projects include multi-million pound apartments in central London, sprawling houses in Surrey and mansions in Palm Beach, Florida. He has even built himself a dream home in Palm Beach with a swimming pool and ocean views.
In the money: Sir Peter Wood and his partner Jacqueline Fox
And the Chelsea FC fan, a keen golfer and tennis player, is also considering keeping one of the £30million penthouses being built at the former BBC Radio headquarters in London.
It marks a change of direction for Wood who is credited with turning the insurance market on its head with the launch of Direct Line and its red phone logo in 1985.
The twice married father of six daughters has set up a total of seven insurance companies and is in the process of selling Esure for £1.2billion – a deal that will land him £360million and give him more time to focus on his new property venture W-One International.
‘My ambition is to build luxury developments in exclusive locations, ultimately creating properties that I can be really proud of,’ he said.
Wood has spent around £65million buying estates in Palm Beach, one of America’s most exclusive neighbourhoods that is home to the rich and famous – as well as Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
The tycoon has already sold one, a Mediterranean-style villa with four bedrooms, five bathrooms and a separate guest house, for around £14million.
A new development, at 530 South Ocean Boulevard, is likely to fetch over £30million.
Esher, Surrey: £5.95million
It is described on the W-One website as an ‘extraordinary home with an ocean-front location’ and has eight bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a two-storey guest house, three-car garage, outdoor pool and spa.
And Wood is keeping a third development featured on the website for himself. The Via Marina property is described as an ‘extensive ocean-front estate’ that is ‘set to become one of the most desirable and exclusive residences on the island’.
The property replaced a 1930s era home that American musician Jimmy Buffett and his wife Jane once owned.
Wood has been a regular visitor to Palm Beach for the past three decades, spending holidays at The Breakers hotel before buying his own home nearby. But his home had no sea view – something he has now rectified.
Palm Beach, Florida: £30million
He splits his time between houses in Palm Beach and Surrey, but also owns homes in Boston and southern Spain.
His Surrey home, near the Epsom Downs racecourse, has views of a golf course, his house on Beacon Hill in Boston looks over the Charles River, and in Spain he can see the sea. ‘I’m a view person,’ he said. ‘I love to look at a view.’
In the UK, W-One has sold two detached five-bedroom family homes in the Claremont Park Estate in Esher, Surrey.
Both came with swimming pools and were marketed for £5.95million each. W-One is also redeveloping the former headquarters of BBC Radio in London. It is converting the site on Marylebone High Street into 19 apartments and five townhouses.
Palm Beach, Florida: £35million
Prices start at around £4million and go up to £30million for the penthouse apartments.
The townhouses look set to fetch upward of £11million each. ‘It is an iconic building,’ said Wood. ‘It was like it had just been abandoned. It is a unique place. The penthouse I might take myself.’
Speaking about his plans last year, Wood said: ‘You know I’m proud of the red phone and I’m proud of Esure, Go Compare, Sheilas’ Wheels, but you can’t walk past those and look up and say “I helped do that”.
‘[Property] is something a bit more interesting in some ways, after having done seven insurance companies. Sometimes you want a bit of a change. I’m not just going to build something big just to make money. I want to do something I’m really proud of.’