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Billionaire Family Set To Buy £400M West End Department Store For Conversion

Fenwick department store on Bond Street

The Lazari family, one of the biggest private investors in London real estate, is in advanced talks to buy one of the West End’s oldest department stores in a redevelopment play that could see the entire property converted to offices.

Lazari Investments is the preferred bidder to buy the 100K SF Fenwick Department store on Bond Street for between £400M-£425M, React News reported.

The building is being sold by the Fenwick family, which began its retail business in Newcastle in 1882. Fenwick has occupied the store on Bond Street since 1891. It was hoping to receive £500M when it put the building up for sale in February this year, but the uncertainty in financial and real estate markets has seen that price dip.

The family has planning permission to add four storeys of offices to the scheme, but with the building more valuable as offices than a department store, Fenwick is likely to vacate the building entirely when it is sold, React said.

The sale and conversion is part of what is now an established trend in the West End — former House of Fraser and Debenhams department stores on nearby Oxford Street are being converted to offices, and John Lewis and M&S are converting part of their flagship stores on the same street to workspace. 

The Lazari family made its fortune by investing in real estate, and maintaining a very tight focus on the West End. 

Accounts for the family’s main investment vehicle showed the company had a 2.9M SF portfolio as of March 2022, 94% of which is located in the West End, and 72% of which is in the office sector.

The portfolio comprises 131 buildings and was valued at £3.4B, up 6% from the previous year. 

The company is among the five largest single owners of West End real estate, behind only the likes of Grosvenor, the Crown Estate and Spanish Inditex billionaire Amancio Ortega

While Grosvenor has been building up its West End holdings for 400 years, Lazari Investments only came into existence in 1976. The family-owned company was started by Christos Lazari, who arrived in London from Cyprus in the early 1960s as a 16-year-old with, as he put it in an interview with Forbes, “£20 in my pocket.” 

Lazari washed pots and pans and worked in a sweatshop before studying fashion and setting up a successful high-street label. He began investing in property in 1976, building up an empire that, on his death in 2015, transferred to the stewardship of his two sons, Nicholas and Leonidas, and daughter Andrie, the company’s directors and owners.

Rare among private family-owned property companies with no external stakeholders to satisfy, Lazari has a bold carbon reduction target, with a plan to be net-carbon zero by 2035.