Tim Henman Discusses his Overseas Property Portfolio

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Tim Henman Discusses his Overseas Property Portfolio

If there's one place you won't find Tim Henman these days, it's on a tennis court.

After nearly three decades of hitting balls for a living and being on the road, over the world, for much of the year, those days are resolutely behind him.

"I loved it while I was doing it. It was all I knew and all I wanted to do. But it wasn't just about playing tennis. It was all the discipline, structure and work ethic that surrounded it and I'm relishing the freedom of not having to do any of that any more," says Tim, whose commitments to the game are now limited to a fortnight's commentating during Wimbledon and the odd day's corporate work with his sponsors.

Instead, the semi-retired 34-year-old is using this "gap year or five" to indulge in pursuits he could never do before, which means a lot of golf. "I play about three or four times a week," he says, modestly omitting to mention he plays off scratch.

He also has the opportunity to spend far more time than before with his family, his wife Lucy, a former TV producer, and their three girls, Rosie, six, Olivia, four, and Grace, nearly two. Hence family holidays are high on the agenda.

But despite having accumulated an estimated £16m, which would allow him to splash out on some lavish trips without having to worry too much about the consequences, Henman has an eye for an investment.Rather than buy a holiday home abroad, he has invested in The Hideaways Club, a fractional ownership club co-founded by Mike Balfour, owner of the Fitness First gyms chain.

Members own a share in the club's portfolio, which currently has 21 properties ranging from beautiful old stone houses in Mallorca and France to new-build beach villas in Borneo and plantation houses in Mauritius.

Shares in the club cost from £122,500 to £235,000, which allows owners four to six weeks annual usage (extra weeks can be bought). The service charges, which can be as high as £14,000 for the highest level of member, cover all aspects of the properties' maintenance, from pool cleaning to a concierge service in each villa.

We are more flexible than most families with young children and it's incredible to have access to this range of properties," says Tim, whose previous property investments focused on buying and renovating grandiose, often listed, houses in Barnes in south west London, where he and Lucy used to live before they had children and decamped to a large house near Oxford.

One of his projects, Old Essex House, made him and his two business partners a profit of £2m four years ago.

Chalet Soleil in Chamonix

Tim and his wife Lucy are tempted by the slopes at one of Hideaways' ski resorts, like Chalet Soleil in Chamonix

For now, though, he leaves the purely financial decisions to his advisor and is more interested in the fun factor that his Hideaways investment can offer.

"I love France and Italy," he says, keen to book the club's villas in Provence or Tuscany for a large group of his family and friends in October, "and Lucy and I are looking forward to trying out some of the ski chalets, as now that I'm no longer a professional player, I can ski for the first time in years," says Tim.

"The long-haul properties aren't an option yet with a two-year-old, but they will appeal eventually. We love the obvious places, but it will be fun to explore new ones."

While the Hideaways directors are agonising over a new name for fractional ownership (they're thinking 'debenture'), tired of having to explain to people that it's not timeshare, Henman - who, as the club's ambassador, gets a discount on the hefty annual service charges - sees it in simple terms. "With the timeshare model, you don't own anything. With fractional ownership, you have an asset. The whole concept works well," he says.

"For me, the great thing about investing in a fractional ownership scheme like this is that you don't have the hassle of owning a home abroad and you aren't limited to choosing just one location. You can spend your holidays in a diverse range of places without any responsibility."

Podere Le Sensaie in Tuscany
Hideaways property Podere Le Sensaie in Tuscany, which Tim is thinking of visiting later this year

He hopes, of course, it will also prove to be a good investment. "It's an asset that is likely to appreciate, particularly as the club is making the most of market conditions and putting in punchy offers for bigger, better properties than it could have afforded to buy two years ago. They're getting some good deals."

The properties on offer are uniformly beautiful and high quality, from the traditionally Provencale La Retraite, which looks across olive groves and pine forests towards the Cote d'Azur, or a modern waterfront villa on the Croatian island of Brac to the opulent Dar Hasnaa, a palatial new villa just outside Marrakech, or Stargazer, a vast new plantation-style house on the Villas Valriche Estate in Mauritius.

The club's model is set up so that the ratio of members to properties is just 4:1 in peak times, so there is a high chance you will get the weeks you want. Friends and family can also use the properties instead of members.

But relishing his new-found freedom, Tim is having none of it. "With past property investments, I've been quite happy to only be involved at the beginning and the end, and let the builders get on with it," comments Tim, who still owns a few investment properties in Barnes.

But with this one, it's as much about the lifestyle element as it is the investment, so I'm not planning to give any weeks away," he says. "We're going to make the most of this one."



Words: Zoe Dare Hall

Author

A Place In The Sun