An investment firm set up by property mogul Nick Leslau has bought the terror attack-hit Manchester Arena as part of a £436 million spending spree.
The acquisition by Secure Income Reit comes 10 months after the arena’s bombing during a concert featuring Ariana Grande.
Leslau said he is “hugely proud” to have bought the venue, which is operated by US entertainment specialist SMG.
The arena was acquired as part of a £224 million package of leisure properties from investment group Mansford.
The portfolio includes pubs, hotels and London events space The Brewery at Chiswell Street.
Secure Income has also bought a portfolio of 59 hotels let to Travelodge for £212 million. They were bought from a consortium of investors including Goldman Sachs.
Leslau told the Evening Standard that the new buildings have “a group of very robust tenants” and that there is plenty of scope for rental growth.
To partly fund the deals, AIM-listed Secure Income has proposed a share placing to raise £315.5 million.
The Reit, a tax-efficient property investment firm, owns the freeholds to a £1.6 billion portfolio, including Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and 19 private hospitals. Two years ago, it splashed out £195 million on 55 Travelodge hotels.
Leslau isn’t formally on the board of Secure but he chairs Prestbury Investments, which advises the company on deals and has £105 million of its own money invested.
Leslau, who has made an estimated £350 million, has been in the property business since his early 20s. The son of a Polish mother and English father, he started out as a convenience-store manager in Belsize Park, but stumbled into property through managing a small block owned by his grandfather.
After studying estate management at South Bank Polytechnic, he joined property company Burford, where he became a junior partner at 23.
He made his first serious money when investor Nigel Wray — who owns Saracens and later tempted Leslau to put his own cash into the club — bought Burford in 1986, making him the youngest CEO of a listed company at the time. The pair built Burford into a £1.2 billion business over the next decade.
In 2010, Leslau gave £425,000 to charity after appearing on Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire and working undercover as a social worker in Glasgow.
In 2011, he bought London marina St Katharine Docks for £156 million through his investment vehicle Max Property Group. The firm was sold to Blackstone for nearly £450 million in 2014.
Leslau has said his most memorable deals, both good and bad, are from outside the sector.
“I tried to bring the world’s first indoor virtual reality theme park at the Trocadero centre in Piccadilly Circus but it bombed and that hurt because it was such a public failure,” he told City A.M. “It did make money but it wasn’t about the money, it was about the vision.”
His favourite deal has been buying rights to Enid Blyton’s books: “I did that deal with Enid’s daughters, one of whom didn’t really like her mother at all and one who adored her. That was quite an interesting negotiation.”
DealMakerz thinks the latest acquisitions will go down well with investors looking for income security in the UK real estate market.
Secure Income aims to create a portfolio that provides stable, growing income and capital returns for shareholders – something that is hard to achieve in the current market environment.
With these deals, Leslau looks set to cement his reputation as one of the UK’s most successful property investors.
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