King of the WAGs puts 15m mansion on the transfer list: Football's favourite developer sells own home with pool, helipad and VERY ostentatious decorMulti-millionaire David Hughes has sold houses to Manchester's football stars and is now selling his ownThe house in Chelford, Cheshire comes with 25 acres of land and a helipad
22:30 GMT, 29 December 2012
Ask any football fan or would-be WAG in the North where the top footballers live and you will get a quick answer – within the ‘golden triangle’ that lies between the towns of Alderley Edge, Knutsford and Wilmslow in Cheshire.
For 20 years, football’s superstars have flocked to this patchwork of villages, 20 miles from Manchester and 45 miles from Liverpool.
Many of them have bought homes from multi-millionaire developer David Hughes – the man who has helped make the term ‘footballer’s house’ part of estate-agent vocabulary.
Top of the league: Multi-millionaire property developer David Hughes is selling his very own 'footballers house', complete with pool, helipad and 25 acres of land
David’s client list is impressive. His
very first footballer transaction was with Harry Kewell, who played for
Liverpool from 2003 to 2008, and since then he has sold mansions to,
among many others, Manchester United’s Edwin van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic
and Nani, and buy-to-let apartments to Manchester United manager Sir
Alex Ferguson and former captain Gary Neville.
Yet the biggest star he
sold a home to, and the client he remembers most fondly, was the boy
from the back streets of Madeira: Cristiano Ronaldo.
‘People forget how young and naive Ronaldo was when he first arrived in Manchester,’ recalls David, sitting in the study of his enormous country house in Chelford, which is for sale at 15 million.
‘He was just 18, his English was poor and I remember he had a trusted friend – a waiter in Manchester – whom he made his financial adviser.
'My abiding memory of Ronaldo is calling in to see him in the leisure complex of the house I sold him. He and his friend were trying to make their own ice bath. They had bought an industrial-size ice-making machine and were trying to shovel ice into a plunge pool.
Big player: The 'Arabian themed' dining room at Holly Tree House
Grand designs: The grand pool with skylights and tropical fish mural
‘They had laid the wires from this machine across the wet floor and jammed the bare flex into sockets with bits of pencil. It was suicidal. Sir Alex Ferguson never knew how close he came to having 80 million worth of footballer go up in smoke.’
David’s involvement in property was originally little more than a casual punt. In 1997, he sold 25 per cent of his Allsports sports retail business for 19 million. The property market was booming, so he spent 400,000 converting Bollington Mill, near Prestbury in Cheshire, into mews cottages. When he sold these on for 800,000, he got a taste for the easy money to be made.
David decided to specialise in the top end of the residential market, hitting on a formula that ideally matched young footballers’ tastes. He would buy a dated home on a good-sized plot in the golden triangle, knock it down and build another in its place. When he built the new home, he would create a huge extended basement. The homes all had underfloor heating and state-of-the-art sound, lighting and security systems. Leisure centres with saunas and cinema rooms were a ‘must’.
Now David is selling his own home, Holly Tree House, which is a template for the footballers’ homes he’s sold. Indeed, he used it as a show house when he tried to interest cricket star Freddie Flintoff in buying one of his properties off-plan.
True 'footballer's house': Holly Tree House, is located in an area of Cheshire known as the 'golden triangle' due to the high number of footballers who reside there
Every imaginable item of ostentation is on show: the white drawing room has enormous chandeliers, gold-leaf cornices and hand-made carpets, while the dining room, in royal blue and reds, has an Arabian feel to it.
To most people it may seem wildly over the top but David reckons it is quite subdued, compared with the tastes of many of the stars.
‘Ronaldo ordered a bedroom in a mass of black satin from Portugal,’ he says. ‘On his bed he had three enormous cushions, one with a C, the second with an R and the third with a 7 – his initials and shirt number.’
Although the tastes of footballers match the stereotype, David is keen to contradict the image of their wives. ‘They are portrayed very unfairly,’ he says. ‘They are always very attractive but the ones I have met – notably Vidic’s wife and Patrice Evra’s – have been very quiet and charming too.’
There is wit in David’s house. In the pool, a mural creates the illusion of swimming off Richard Branson’s Necker Island. The 25 acres of grounds, which include a Japanese water garden, fishing lake, tennis court, golf tee and green and heli-pad, also hide deer which are, on closer inspection, made of stone.
David lost his property business in the 2008 banking crash, but he still owns swathes of the ‘golden triangle’ and his reason for selling is unrelated to business. ‘I built this house in 1997 with my first wife and it still has her stamp on it,’ says David, who has been married to his present wife, Gill, for four years. ‘Now we are going to build the same house again – but slightly smaller.’
Jackson-Stops & Staff, jackson-stops.co.uk, 01625 540340