From Slum Landlord to Mr Ally Pally; He Came as a 19-Year Old Exile from Tanzania and Worked in a Fish and Chip Shop. Now This Tough-Talking Property Tycoon Is to Redevelop a London Landmark

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 2, 2006 | Go to article overview

From Slum Landlord to Mr Ally Pally; He Came as a 19-Year Old Exile from Tanzania and Worked in a Fish and Chip Shop. Now This Tough-Talking Property Tycoon Is to Redevelop a London Landmark


Byline: KEITH DOVKANTS;KEITH DOVKANTS

FIROZ Kassam really is unstoppable.

He has rocketed up the Rich List at dizzying speed, turning a [pounds sterling]90 million fortune into [pounds sterling]250 million in a year, he was one of David Cameron's early backers in the race for the Conservative leadership and he has just pulled off the biggest deal of his life, the chance to develop Alexandra Palace.

Mr Ally Pally, as he will inevitably become known, has plans to turn the much-loved Victorian pleasure palace into a 21st century leisure experience.

The redbrick pile is to be restored and joined by an ice rink, bowling alley, cinema and much more. Why, Mr Kassam is even guaranteeing an annual fireworks display.

Not bad for a man who came here as a 19-year-old exile from Tanzania and started his business career battering cod in his fish and chip shop. But then Mr Kassam is something of a phenomenon. And, if his record for courting controversy is anything to go by, the fireworks may start sooner than expected.

"Mr Kassam has an ability for getting his own way, but he can sometimes leave people feeling a little bruised," a business rival who went head-to-head with him on a big deal told me yesterday.

The trust that manages Alexandra Palace is desperate to get rid of it. It has been draining [pounds sterling]500,000 a year from Haringey council's hard-pressed budget, and what was once a magnificent example of Victorian architectural exuberance is now swathed in a miasma of decay.

Ally Pally needed saving, and soon. More than a dozen concerns expressed interest in taking it on, but the preferred bidders list was whittled down to two: Mr Kassam's Firoka group and Earl's Court and Olympia, a company backed by Gerald Ronson. Mr Kassam won and is now negotiating terms for a 125-year lease.

His vision is bold, and what he is able to achieve will be governed by his relationship with Haringey council - but then Mr Kassam, 50, is an old hand at dealing with councils.

Back in the 1980s he was, for a while, the darling of places like Camden and We s t m i n s t e r because he helped those councils solve a massive problem - what to do with the homeless. When we look at Mr Kassam today it seems hardly credible that he has graduated from one of the most gritty of all professions, that of the slum landlord.

This is a man who lives in Monaco, but keeps a family home in a 20-bedroomed house at Heythrop Park, one of southern England's most beautiful ancestral seats. The main house, built by the 12th Earl of Shrewsbury in the early 18th century, is owned by Mr Kassam, who has turned it into a 270-bedroom hotel with a golf course and spa.

It's a far cry from the notorious Mount Pleasant Hotel near King's Cross, which he owned in the 1980s. This place, once described as a "hellhole", was home to 700 people who had been placed there by social services officials.

Several London councils were paying Mr Kassam around [pounds sterling]60,000 a week to put a roof over the head of some of London's most unfortunate.

Residents at the "hotel" rebelled over conditions and Camden council stopped sending its homeless there.

He went on to own other rundown establishments before he bought the 740-room London Park Hotel at the Elephant and Castle. It was doing quite well as a tourist hotel in the late 1990s, then Mr Kassam spotted another opportunity. The Home Office was spending [pounds sterling]40 million a year on housing a growing number of asylum seekers. The London Park Hotel soon closed its books to tour companies and became a hostel for refugees. It attracted a rather unsavoury reputation and is to be redeveloped. Mr Kassam, it might be said, has already undergone this process. In the 1980s he was labelled a "merchant of misery" over his slum hotel enterprises, but today he is the esteemed proprietor of some of the finest real estate in the land. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

From Slum Landlord to Mr Ally Pally; He Came as a 19-Year Old Exile from Tanzania and Worked in a Fish and Chip Shop. Now This Tough-Talking Property Tycoon Is to Redevelop a London Landmark
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.