The former Dragons’ Den star has been busy refurbishing his Algarve villa and buying a new pad in Miami Beach, reports Liz Rowlinson.
The Scottish health club entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne is having a good year. Fresh from celebrating his girlfriend Nigora’s 36th birthday, at a glitzy London bash and a minibreak in Venice, the youthful 67-year-old is contemplating a trip to his Algarve villa to inspect the latest improvements. Back in the UK aft er his stint in the I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! jungle, he has also acquired four new health clubs in the past six months and splashed out on a $4 million apartment in Miami Beach — of which more later.
The former Dragons’ Den star has had his five-bed villa in the exclusive resort of Vale do Lobo in the central Algarve for almost two years. He bought the villa for “around €3 million” and has been renting it out for about €8,000 a week. He’s just withdrawn it from the rentals market so that he and his family can use it extensively this year.
“I have bought a big barbecue and we intend to use that a lot this summer,” says Duncan, who is relaxing in his Kensington apartment in west London (he also owns two homes in Yarm, Teesside).
“We have been refurbishing our bedroom and plan to put in a new kitchen next. We have removed the balustrade that was blocking the view of the pool and have improved it considerably.”
He says that after having to sell his villa in Mougins in the south of France — that featured in this magazine seven years ago — he was hunting for a place in the sun and fell in love with the resort of Vale de Lobo. It was always a lifestyle rather than an investment purchase, but with prices on the Algarve beginning to register small increases he is sure that if he sold the villa today he would make a profit.
“I was first looking to buy a home around Cape Town in South Africa, but my eldest daughter (one of his six children) said she wouldn’t visit because of security fears, so I thought I’d try Portugal,” he says. “I thought I wanted Quinta do Lago [the other exclusive resort nearby on the Algarve] but preferred Vale do Lobo because it is possible to walk to the beach from the villa. We are only a short walk from eight restaurants in the square and it’s great for the grandchildren [aged 6 and 4] who love the live music they have there.”
Vale do Lobo, a 450-hectare golf and leisure resort that borders the Atlantic coast, includes a pool complex, tennis academy, boutiques, beach club, wellness centre, golf club and the Praça, a beachfront complex of restaurants, along with private properties such as Duncan’s. He likes to walk to the gym, ten minutes away, for a daily workout — “although Nigora prefers the gym at Quinta do Lago where they have lots of classes” — or enjoys a walk to the beach, where there is a restaurant that does a “nice white omelette”.
What about all the world-class golf courses on his doorstep? The Royal and the Ocean have both hosted the Portuguese Open — the former has a dramatic cliff-edge course, while the Ocean sweeps down to the beach. “I might take up golf lessons soon, as I will be spending more time at the resort,” says Duncan, although he will give the tennis courts a miss.
He hints that he is looking into expanding his health clubs in the locality too — his first overseas export of that kind. Would he consider spending half the year in the resort, like many northern European expats, for tax reasons? In Portugal the non-habitual residency scheme offers those who spend 183 days or more in the country very benign tax rates.
“I don’t need to for tax reasons, no, and the resort does get very quiet between November and February,” he says. During the summer, the Bannatynes often head to Monty’s in the Praça because of the live music that goes on till 2am. But he must find the nightlife a bit tame compared with the French Riviera?
“I love the fact it is so laid-back,” he says. “There are no security guys everywhere like there is on the Côte d’Azur, and it feels very safe. In fact, Vale do Lobo was recently voted the second safest place to live in the world [after Monaco],” he adds. “My home in Mougins was broken into twice, but I cannot imagine that happening in Vale do Lobo.”
While he loved the classy restaurants of the south of France, he said that the food scene on the Algarve was improving. “The food is getting really good. We really like Parrilla Natural restaurant and also Alambique.”
He says that the flights to Faro are also improving in frequency — if not yet quite as good as to Nice from the UK — and is delighted that there are direct TAP Portugal flights from Faro to Miami, where his latest overseas home is and where he will be able to enjoy some winter sun. “About a year ago, I bought off-plan a four-bed apartment at South of Fifth, a luxury condo development on Miami Beach, for $4 million,” he reveals. “It will be finished in February, and when I am not using it I might rent it out to help pay the bills.”
The Three Hundred Collins project is a five-storey boutique block of 19 apartments set in private gardens in a fashionable district close to South Beach. It offers one-to-fourbed apartments priced from $1.2 million to $9 million. Each property has a large balcony, floor-to-ceiling windows and white oak flooring. Residents can use the rooftop pool, hot tub, wellness centre and 24-hour concierge — the perfect turnkey home for overseas owners such as Duncan.
Such well-located quality projects with great facilities are the most rentable homes, according to a local agent who suggests that yields could be 5 per cent - 8 per cent a year, depending on how much personal use an investor seeks. “I love the buzz of Miami, which is very different to the Algarve,” Duncan laughs.
“I really wanted a place there and had to buy one off -plan as couldn’t find one that was already built. I found an agent through Google — Ron Eppinger — and the process was quite straightforward. When I am there it’s going to be all about the beach life: I’ll do the keep-fit bit in the Algarve.”
Last year Miami was one of the hottest markets in the US, along with New York and other Floridian hot spots such as Orlando that are gathering pace. Th e average sales price for a single family home in the Miami Beach area is $3,350,000, according to Robert Green, managing director of Sphere Estates, which is marketing the scheme. South Beach attracts buyers from the UK, UAE, China, Brazil and North Americans seeking year-round sun.
The last time I saw Duncan he was enjoying some winter sun on the beach outside the Sandy Lane resort in Barbados.
So was he not tempted to buy on the island, like various other high-rolling entrepreneurs? “No, Barbados is far too expensive these days,” he says. “And I would prefer to do so in St Lucia if I did buy in the Caribbean.”