By Sebastian O’Kelly
Yes, Redrow may be thought to be shafting its customers at Ledsham Garden Village by playing the leasehold angles, if these houses could be sold normally as freehold. Yes, it has high ground rents at its fancy flats at, for example, Kingston Riverside, in Surrey
So far, so developer wideboy, one might think. And no different to any other housebuilder presented with leasehold’s opportunities in England and Wales.
But, to be frank, I would much prefer to demonstrate outside a Taylor Wimpey sales office: this is the company which turned this graft into a major scandal with doubling ground rents.
Or Bellway, whose CEO is the gormless Ted Ayres, who is bellowing to anyone who listens that there is no leasehold house scandal.
Or Persimmon (in which I have a shareholding), whose cowardly CEO Jeffrey Fairburn has said not a whisper about leasehold houses, yet prattles sanctimonious nonsense about engaging with “stakeholders” it the annual report.
Persimmon has spread wealth-eroding leasehold houses all over the country, wherever the opportunity has presented itself.
Redrow’s founder chairman Steve Morgan is in a different league to the spear-carriers-turned-CEOs who run many of the other housebuilding firms.
The only person of comparable stature is Tony Pidgley of the Berkeley Group, which builds fancy Thamesside apartments in London.
After borrowing £5,000, Morgan set up Redrow in 1974, built it into a plc housebuilder, floated it in 1994 and then sold it off in 2000.
He kept an 8 per cent stake, but largely missed out on the deleterious property frenzy of the next eight years.
Then came the crash, which saw Redrow looking at a £200 million loss, at which point in 2009 Morgan returned to the company.
“I just couldn’t see what had taken me 25 years to build up destroyed,” he told the BBC. “I’d been through recessions before and I knew what to do and what not to do.”
By June last year, Redrow was posting profits of £240 million on sales of £1.4 billion.
Last month, Morgan gave £200 million of Redrow shares to the charitable foundation that he set up in 2001. This equates to 11.4 per cent of Redrow. It is one of the biggest charitable donations ever given by a British businessman.
It goes to the Morgan Foundation, which has already committed £35 million to charitable causes in North Wales and the North West.
If the Morgan Foundation wishes to make a donation to LKP, which is a registered charity, we would be delighted to accept it.
So, yes, I will be outside the sales office at Ledsham Garden Village on Saturday, but I would far rather be outside the offices of some other housebuilder.