Despite accumulating personal wealth estimated at almost £1.3 billion — far more than that other more publicity-hungry set of London property brothers the Candys — little is known about the lives of Ian and Richard Livingstone outside the tightest possible circle of family and close friends.The sons of an Ealing dentist, the boys were educated at St Paul’s public school in Barnes, after which Ian went on to become an optometrist, while Richard trained as a chartered surveyor.One said: “He feels that people of his generation want to go somewhere they can take their children and relax without old ladies tut-tutting.
The portfolio of properties delivered their first big fortune when they sold them for £92 million — a profit of £29 million — to the much bigger group Development Securities in 1993.The past 20 years have seen them acquire everything from the David Lloyd and Next Generation chains of fitness clubs, the freeholds of 49 acute care hospitals through the General Healthcare Group, the 91 nursing homes previously operated by the notorious and now collapsed Southern Cross, the 700-home Lovell’s Wharf riverside development in Greenwich and the huge First Central business park near the Hanger Lane roundabout in west London where drinks giant Diageo has its global HQ.Ian opened his first store, called Optika, in Hampstead in 1989, and within three years his business was strong enough to buy the David Clulow chain out of receivership, and by 1996 there were 40 outlets in an enterprise valued at £20 million.Unlike the Candys and their famous £6,000 “loan from granny”, the funding of the Livingstones’ first investments is shrouded in mystery.They own a dazzling portfolio of trophy properties rarely out of the public eye that are scattered around London like houses and hotels on a real-life Monopoly board.
One night Madonna might be emerging from the Empire Leicester Square after a West End premiere.
Associates say the brothers always insist that they’re “very long-term investors” and that the odd year of losses will not worry them.
“They feel that business is about investing, putting your money where your mouth is, not about a flashy lifestyle.”The vast sprawling group has assets of more than £4 billion but after borrowings are knocked off, net assets are a more modest but still substantial £800 million.
— an ironic choice of profession for the spouse of a man famed for his discretion.
They are described by acquaintances as “very down to earth, very normal”. Natalie is a close friend of Princess Charlene of Monaco, whom she interviewed on the day of the wedding last July while she was being photographed for a Vogue feature by Julian Lennon.
The purchase of Cliveden may allow Natalie to host a few celebrity parties of her own.