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Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Styles ... Why Celebrities Can't Stop Dabbling In Manchester Property Development


Cristiano Ronaldo’s hotel business Pestana has won planning permission for a 150-bed hotel close to Manchester’s Piccadilly railway station.

The 11-storey £27M project will fill a long-vacant infill site on the corner of Newton Street, conveniently close to the expanding Northern Quarter and Portugal Street East redevelopment areas. All being well, work on-site will begin in October 2021 and it will open to visitors in spring 2023.

The Juventus and former Manchester United number 7 joins a long and growing list of celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment who have dabbled in Manchester real estate development.

One Direction star Harry Styles is involved in Oak View's £350M plans for a new Manchester Arena, Manchester United and England icon Gary Neville has been fronting £200M plans for the St Michael's hotel, apartment and office scheme, and cricket legend Freddie Flintoff is expanding into office development.

So what is the appeal of Manchester to would-be celebrity property developers? Bisnow has some suggestions.

1. Low-Entry Fee Diversity

You are young, you have big money to spend, you realise your earning power may not last a lifetime: Most of the celebrities who invest in Manchester have career peaks in their 20s or 30s, so they need to make plans for continued income in their middle age. A diverse portfolio including real estate is obviously appealing. London? Tricky, because it is so expensive. So Manchester ticks up the action list. But buying into the kind of standing stock they might like — offices, hotels, apartments, but particularly hotels — is competitive and slow because although the Manchester commercial property market is large, it isn’t that large. Solution: Build it yourself.

2. It’s Cool And Caring

Celebs are all about image. Buying a megabucks office block in London's West End looks neither cool nor caring, and possibly looks a little bit plutocratic and out of touch with the fan base.  But heading north earns them the bragging rights to a “regeneration project,” and is something for their PR team to get working on. Photo opportunities abound. Moreover, because Manchester (music, football, tech, the ever-present sense that something is about to happen) is effortlessly cool, in the way that certain brands just are, the celebrities can score some by-association edginess and deepen the bond with their public. It’s win, win. Plus the yield is keen.

3. It’s Fun

Nobody expects you to feel sorry for these guys — successful, beautiful, often fabulously rich — but try to see it their way: You’re young, you’re loaded, but your career is over (or soon will be) and you’re surrounded by people you can’t trust who want your money. Everyone treats you with kid gloves. Genuine relationships are at a premium. And you are bored out of your mind. Developing in Manchester is, in these circumstances, like being allowed to spend a year at the fun fair. Manchester is the capital city of in-your-face. Manchester people, property people included, are not by nature sycophants. If they want a drink, or your secrets or a ride in your car, they will tell you. They are fairly open to having a good time with whoever is around, no questions asked. None of the foregoing is true in London. Meantime the celebrity gets to enjoy being a property developer and building a real career, which is a lot better than yet another brunch with Rita Ora.