The Berkeley Group was established in 1976 by Tony Pidgley CBE and Jim Farrer. Based in Weybridge, Surrey, the company initially focused on the construction of single homes and executive developments. In its first year four homes were constructed, all of which were sold off-plan, giving the company a turnover of £121,000 and a profit of £21,000.
From the outset Berkeley maintained a detailed focus on every development and established disciplined procedures to enable both the construction and marketing of sites to start as early as possible in the development cycle, thus maximising return on capital and minimising marketing risk.
Berkeley rapidly became renowned for the quality of its product and for its ability to match product to demand. Consequently the business grew rapidly. In December 1985 Berkeley gained a full listing on the London Stock Exchange. In less than ten years of operation Berkeley had grown from an entrepreneurial business capitalised at £50,000 to a fully listed group valued at over £67m.
As the company expanded, Berkeley established regional business in Kent, Hampshire, North London and Sussex. These divisions were granted a high degree of autonomy to ensure that the entrepreneurial spirit of the business was not lost as the company grew. This devolved business structure has continued to be at the heart of Berkeley's business strategy ever since.
In 1988, Berkeley became convinced that the housing boom was unsustainable and began to sell its land holdings and all the houses on its books, aiming to protect its balance sheet rather than maximise short-term profits. The anticipated downturn materialised, vindicating Berkeley's strategy and putting it in a strong position when it re-entered a much softer land market in 1990-91.
The Group continued to expand through the establishment of new divisions and acquisition of other businesses. Its long-standing experience in a wide range of products combined with a unique structure of highly autonomous profit centres and an extended geographical reach enabled the Group to undertake any type of development, whether commercial, residential or mixed-use.
During the early 1990's, Berkeley determined to focus its skills and expertise on complex brownfield sites in towns and cities throughout the country.
The Group swiftly gained a reputation for its innovative approach to urban regeneration, focusing on mixed-use developments and the creation of sustainable communities.
Today, The Berkeley Group is a leader in the business of urban regeneration, with a target to build over 95% of its development on brownfield land. Its talented and experienced management team consistently demonstrate the vision and flair to develop attractive and sustainable communities of its customers while extracting high value from the land it develops.
Throughout its history, The Group has stayed true to its founding principles of maintaining a detailed focus on each of its developments and adhering to disciplined procedures to enable the construction and marketing of its sites to start as early as possible in the development cycle.
This approach has delivered financial strength, a strong forward order book and high quality land bank which allows The Berkeley Group to look to the future with confidence.
Tony Pidgley CBE was Berkeley Group's founder and led the business for 34 years.
He left school at 15 to form his own company in haulage and plant hire. At 19, he sold his business to Crest Homes and became a Building Director, before leaving to form Berkeley in 1976. He grew the business into a highly sustainable FTSE 100 company that builds thousands of high quality homes each year.
At Berkeley, Tony shaped some of the country's most challenging and celebrated regeneration programmes, including the reinvention of the Royal Arsenal munitions site in Woolwich, and the revival of Hackney's Woodberry Down estate. He was passionate about placemaking and working in partnership with local people to create welcoming communities where people of all ages and backgrounds enjoy a good quality of life.
Tony advised successive Governments on regeneration, placemaking, housing and developing public land. He was a member of Lord Heseltine's Estate Regeneration Advisory Panel, the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission and the Mayor's Outer London Commission. He was the longest serving President in the history of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was awarded a CBE in 2013 for "services to the housing sector and the community".
His philosophy and vision are deeply embedded in Berkeley Group.