As the son of an Iraqi Jew who settled his family in Iran before fleeing the country after the Shah fell, Robert Tchenguiz has seen his fair share of ups and downs. But with a last name that means Genghis in Persian, Tchenguiz may be able to handle such setbacks better than most.
Today, Tchenguiz is one of the most ubiquitous and influential investors in the European property markets through his R20 investment vehicle. Worth an estimated £400 million together with his elder brother Vincent, he owns an eclectic mix of businesses ranging from pubs to supermarkets—he bought supermarket chain Somerfield for £1.8 billion last year in conjunction with Apax and Barclays Capital—and is one of two controlling shareholders in Scottish whiskey maker Whyte & Mackay.
“He is a visionary and very astute at identifying value,” said one industry observer. “He has moved from real estate to private equity investments very successfully.”
Another business acquaintance said: “He started off by having a reputation of being neither private or having equity, but in investment terms, making a little cash goes a long way.”
Such is Tchenguiz' reputation that he is almost always cited by newspapers as a potential bidder when takeover rumors start circulating around a pub group or property-intensive retailer. Earlier this year he tried (but failed) to take over pub and restaurant group, Mitchells & Butlers. But given his background, it doesn't seem such setbacks will slow Tchenguiz down anytime soon.
“If you came [to our office] at 9:30 tonight you would find people working,” he told Management Today earlier this year. “We work very hard. I spend 90 percent of my time here. I spend more time here than I do at home.”