Sir Peter Wood, the insurance tycoon behind Direct Line, Esure, Sheilas’ Wheels and Go Compare, is developing a multi-million pound property empire in the UK and US, boosting his already considerable fortune.
The 71-year-old, thought to be worth around £800 million, has a string of projects on the go, including multi-million pound apartments in central London, sprawling houses in Surrey and mansions in Palm Beach, Florida.
He has built himself a luxury home in Palm Beach with a swimming pool and ocean views, and is considering keeping one of the £30 million penthouses being built at the former BBC Radio headquarters in London, according to the Daily Mail.
Wood, who is credited with turning the insurance market on its head with the launch of Direct Line in 1985, is in the process of selling Esure for £1.2 billion in a deal that will land him £360 million 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 £65 million 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.
Wood has already sold one property, a Mediterranean-style villa with four bedrooms, five bathrooms and a separate guest house, for around £14 million.
A new development, at 530 South Ocean Boulevard, is likely to fetch over £30 million. 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.
Wood 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 told the Daily Mail. “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 £5.95 million 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. Prices start at around £4 million and go up to £30 million for the penthouse apartments.
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.”
DMZ reckons the businessman clearly knows what he’s doing. If his property venture is anywhere near as successful as his insurance companies, Wood’s fortune could grow phenomenally.