THE BEST HOUSE WETHERELL EVER SOLD:
A 77 room, 44,000 sq ft mansion built in the 1720s for the Gray family of tea importers, and subsequently the home of Lady Astor, the first woman ever to sit in Parliament. The property had been requisitioned during the Second World War and the instruction to sell came from the Ministry of Defence. It had been on the market as offices and hadn’t sold at the asking price of £3 million. Wetherell sold it to the ruling family of Qatar for £5.3 million in 1993. It is now the In and Out club. A curiosity was the secret room that Wetherell found once and could never find again
THE FIRST RENTAL DEAL:
April 1987 for the commercial property giant MEPC. Wetherell let a house in Woods Mews at £400 a week. Wetherell were recently renting a maisonette at £2,200 per week.
MAYFAIR’S MOST EXPENSIVE FRONT DOOR:
In 1985 a Middle Eastern Investor who owned 4 flats in Grosvenor Square eventually owned everything in that part of the building – except the front door and the corridor behind it. Wetherell sold both for £85,000. Next, the owner wanted some garaging, and in a series of domino deals Wetherell bought three garages in Adams Row for a total of £410,000 to house 12 cars.
THE SMALLEST FLAT EVER SOLD:
Lord McAlpine bought the first floor of this property from Wetherell in 1985 for £250,000. Shortly afterwards, Wetherell sold the fourth-floor, walk-up flat at the top of the building for £39,500. Lord McAlpine moved on as a security precaution after his London address was published.
THE FIRST FLOOR PLANS:
Were used in sales particulars in 1986. At first, they probably hindered sales – agents were used to them and assumed everybody could understand them. This proved initially to be untrue – although floor plans today are widely understood.
A SALES DOUBLE:
In July 1987, Wetherell sold horse trainer Charles St George’s house in Upper Brook Street for £850,000 at the same time as selling his jockey Lestor Piggott’s maisonette in Adams Row.
THE FIRST TECHNOLOGY:
If you discount the telephone land lines (five of them to start with) and the Telex, it was probably the radio telephone in Wetherell’s own car in 1983 – a black Golf GTI. By 1987, all Wetherell’s staff had mobile telephones: about as heavy as a house brick, but right at the cutting edge of technology at the time.
THE SECOND MOST DIFFICULT INSTRUCTION:
A Middle Eastern investor had bought a house in Charles Street, and had spent the best part of a decade restoring it – but he needed more space and asked Wetherell to buy the property next door. There were four separate owners occupying apartments in very different styles. None were planning to sell. Wetherell offered each of them a premium price – and then tied the four separate deals together by saying that if anyone of them sought a higher price it would lower the offers to the other tenants. The deal was done in record time for one of the richest men in the world.
THE MOST DISAPPOINTING DEAL:
Wetherell was chairman of the Central London Branch of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and brokered a national merger between the association and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors over lunch at Scott’s in Mount Street. The merger was put to the vote and – surprisingly – the RICS approved it. Even more surprisingly, the NAEA rejected it. Wetherell was so disappointed he resigned from the Executive Council of the association, even though he was in line to become a future national president.
THE BEST ACCOLADE:
Helping Grosvenor sell its own headquarters in Davies Street. The HQ was a series of ten period buildings that had been merged and was famously difficult to get around without a guide – so the code name for the sale, when it was confidential, was Houdini. Wetherell sold the three houses in Brook Street for more than £8 million for restoration back to private residential use and two have since sold for more than £10 million each.
THE BEST INVENTION:
Was probably the name Mayfair Village for the area around Mount Street and South Audley Street. Wetherell always believed that a local agent has to be passionate about the area in which he operates. Four years into his own business he set up what is now Mayfair Times as a local newspaper. Wetherell paid to have the bell in Grosvenor Chapel restored because “it needed to chime”. The firm set up the Mount Street Association in 1994 which ran for seven years, and is about to set it up again as the Mayfair Village Association with the support of Grosvenor.
THE HIGHEST RENT EVER ACHIEVED:
In 1993, this was the biggest house Wetherell had ever sold for Grosvenor. It went for £5.4 million and was sold to the Qatari royal family. It was then let by Wetherell in 2005 to the Saudi Arabian Ambassador on a two-year let at £1.65 million a year, at that time the highest rent ever achieved on a residential property in Mayfair. The property came back on to the market late in 2007 at £50 million – an almost tenfold increase in value over 14 years.
THE PROPERTY THAT GOT AWAY:
Wetherell was asked to sell a first floor flat in Shepherd Market in 1997.The front door was made of steel, the kitchen was in a poor state and in the bedroom there was a bidet and a cupboard full of whips and handcuffs. This posed a moral dilemma: was it worse to be associated with selling what was clearly a brothel, or to turn down the opportunity to take a brothel off the market. The dilemma was resolved when it emerged that Wetherell was merely being used to provide a free valuation. The flat was sold privately.
THE VALUE OF A GOOD CIGAR:
There’s a saying in estate agency: if it’s a sole agency, give the instruction to the agent you have to give it to; if it’s a joint agency, give it to the agent you have to give it to and the agent you want to give it to. But Wetherell picked up one of the first triple agencies because he shared the love of a good cigar with a shipping magnate – who was selling three houses in Upper Brook Street through two other agents. Every time they met over a cigar, they talked about the sale. So, if it’s a triple agency, give the instruction to the agent you have to give it to, the agent you want to give it to, and the agent who smokes cigars.
THE GRANDEST HOUSE SOLD:
74 South Audley Street, dating from early 1720’s – in which Wetherell had once had an office – was sold for Grosvenor and property company Central & City in 1997. It is now a private mansion house. But the biggest in Mayfair was Lombard House in Curzon Street, 40,000 sq.ft. Of offices returning back to residential which Wetherell sold in 1997 for £14M.
THE MOST EXPENSIVE BROCHURE:
Was on 19 Upper Brook Street, which sold for £9 million in 1998.The house was so historic that Wetherell bought the Survey of London for Mayfair, put a new cover on it and placed a marker in the section that mention number 19. Buy the house, you buy the history. That single brochure cost £100 each.
BRINGING RESIDENTIAL LIFE BACK TO MAYFAIR:
Wetherell’s early ads included the line We Sell Well, Wetherell – largely so that the business’s name would be pronounced correctly. Later, the copy line changed to Mayfair’s Leading Estate Agent, and then – because people don’t really want an estate agent, they want a home – it became Mayfair’s Finest Properties. Today,Wetherell is using Bringing Residential Life Back to Mayfair, to reflect the fact that since 1990 the firm has returned something like 250 properties to residential use with a further 65 in the pipeline.
THE FIRST SOLD BOARD:
Wetherell’s first ‘sold by’ board on the railings of the Grosvenor Square block of flats in 1983. Note the Kensington phone number prior to the first address in Mayfair.
WETHERELL’S FIRST MAYFAIR ADDRESS:
The last address you can have in Mayfair, before you leave Mayfair. It was actually a friend’s business address. In the very early days of the business, Wetherell used it as his postal address, transferring to 140 Park Lane when his friend moved there. The business’s first actual office address was in 1983 at 47 Upper Grosvenor Street, opposite the US Embassy before moving in 1990 to 74 South Audley Street and opening their first shop at 102 Mount Street in 1992.
THE MOST DIFFICULT INSTRUCTION:
February 1988: Peter Wetherell sells his grandmother’s house The 3,500 sq ft house was in Chelsea. Peter’s grandmother, who had lived in the house for 65 years, had been moved into the converted former butler’s quarters on a life tenancy. It was sold to a member of the Mountbatten family, which pleased Peter’s grandmother since she was an ardent Royalist.
THE FIRST RETAIL DEAL:
A Piccadilly retailer took a lease at the top of the commercial property boom, paying £14,500 pa – and a premium of £120,000 up front, just to be allowed to step inside the front door. The company didn’t survive the following recession.
THE FIRST FALLTHROUGH:
Was on Wetherell’s own home when he was still in his 20s – a top floor studio in a modern block in Kensington. He had sold it to a woman who worked at Harrods, but she was there at the time of the IRA bombing of the department store on December 17 1983 – and, while she wasn’t injured, she was traumatised and pulled out of the deal.
Wetherell sold two small flats in Grosvenor Square at £185,000 and £175,000. Another agent brought to market another flat on the first floor at £200,000. Wetherell thought it was undervalued and acquired it for clients and immediately put it back on the market at £325,000. Lady Raine Spencer lived on the fourth floor of the building with her husband – and Princess Diana’s father. She would buy it £310,000 if Wetherell could sell hers for £400,000. Wetherell sold it to the neighbour arguing that he would benefit from the marriage value created by knocking the two flats together. Wetherell sold the 1st floor flat again in 2007 for £3m, but with 25 years less on the lease!
THE FIRST REALLY SEXY DEAL:
Modernist fashion designer Coco Chanel’s house was bought for a client in 1984 at around £750,000.The 1930s building may not have been impressive outside – but inside it had a roof terrace with a fountain and all of the bathrooms had Lalique glass faces out of which water poured.
THE FIRST AND ONLY COUNTRY HOUSE DEAL:
A Nigerian client had bought and sold Mayfair properties several times through Wetherell. In 1987, he asked Wetherell to sell Tyle Mill in Sulhampstead, Berkshire. The mill was on the River Kennett and came with 12 acres. At the time, Wetherell had just sold a Mayfair property to a television magnate – Wetherell asked Mr Big if he was interested in buying something in the country. They visited Berkshire and Wetherell sold the house to the TV executive for £1.4 million.