Nick Candy and Christian Candy are two super-wealthy property developer brothers, who went from redeveloping a small flat in southwest London to creating the ultra-lavish £150 million apartment block One Hyde Park. The two brothers gained fame for a list of high-profile clients that reportedly includes sheikhs, Kylie Minogue, and oil billionaires. Media reports peg the brothers as billionaires, but they told a UK court this year their combined wealth is around £600 million. The brothers are known for paying as little tax as possible on their personal wealth and property deals — but they say they operate strictly within the law. The brothers have won a sensational £132 million court case brought by a fellow property developer who claims the pair loaned him money, then threatened his family to squeeze out higher repayments. LONDON — Emma Holyoake's 14-page witness statement read like a soap opera script, and it even involved a former soap opera actress.
The statement described a dramatic scene: one-time "Neighbours" star Holly Valance walking into her hotel room to find her multimillionaire, property developer husband lying on the floor in the foetal position, crying "inconsolably."
The man on the floor was Nick Candy, one half of the wealthy Candy brothers, weeping because of his brother's alleged "bullying."
It's a contrast to the usual public image of the Candy brothers, who usually appear in press coverage as coolly imposing, or alongside their glamourous wives.
Valance confided the uncomfortable episode to Holyoake during a party in Ibiza. It should have remained private, but emerged in court as part of an explosive £132 million legal battle between Emma Holyoake's husband, Mark Holyoake, and the Candy brothers.
The Candy brothers have won the case, after a lengthy trial that featured a surfeit of dramatic details. The presiding judge, Justice Nugee, cleared the pair of all charges.
Holyoake, also a property developer, had accused the brothers in the High Court of intimidation, blackmail, and extortion after he borrowed £12 million from Christian Candy to finance a redevelopment.
The case was filed in 2015 and went to trial in February 2017, when the two opposing parties and a supporting cast of witnesses appeared before a trial judge to give evidence that veered like a novel between celebrity gossip, terrifying accusations of violence, and dry financial details.
The Candy brothers did not speak to Business Insider for this piece. In a statement given to the press after their win, they said: "We have won the case. The judgment shows that Mr Holyoake and his accomplices are well-practised liars and forgers of documents, and Mr Holyoake even lied to the Court repeatedly as part of the High Court proceedings. The Judge saw through his lies and dismissed every one of Mr Holyoake's claims.
"It has taken a great deal of time and effort to win this case and it has caused unwarranted damage to our personal and business lives. The claim should never have been brought. We look forward to time more positively spent with our families and in our respective businesses."
The victory doesn't come without a sting, and can't erase months of lurid headlines about dead Russian spies, the alleged threats of violence, and scrutiny into the pair's tax affairs.
While the presiding judge, Justice Nugee, dismissed all the claims against the Candy brothers, he also said the pair were "shown to be willing on occasion to lie when they consider their commercial interests justify them in doing so."
The Candy brothers are ultra-wealthy property developers who began with just a £6,000 loan
Nick Candy and his younger brother Christian Candy are celebrities in the property world and are behind some of London's most expensive redevelopments. They are known for buying up buildings, carrying out high-end renovations and refurbishments, then selling properties at a considerable mark-up. One example is their high-end apartment development, One Hyde Park. The pair bought the central London site for £150 million in 2004. When the complex was finished, it contained what was at one point "the world's most expensive flat", which sold for £140 million alone in 2014.
Nick is married to the popstar Holly Valance, while Christian is married to the socialite Emily Crompton. The brothers are fascinating for their combination of flashy glamour, and for the celebrities who reportedly buy their properties (singer Kylie Minogue is apparently one client.)
The two are often referred to as billionaires, but according to High Court disclosures, their net wealth is around £600 million. The last public estimate of their wealth dates from The Sunday Times' "Rich List" in 2010, when they entered the list with a net wealth of £300 million. They were subsequently dropped from the list after refusing to take part in the verification process, according to The Telegraph.
According to The Guardian, the Candy brothers were born to Anthony "Tony" Candy, who ran an art studio, and Patricia, a drama teacher. They grew up in Surrey, a wealthy London suburb, and were privately educated at the £24,000-a-year Epsom College. Their parents eventually separated, but the brothers have spoken publicly about their close familial relationship.
Nick Candy told The Daily Mail of his love for his father, who died in 2013 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, saying: "Money was no object. I spent a lot trying to find the best doctors — and I found the best one there is — but it was all too late."
And Christian Candy, during the Holyoake trial, revealed that he had briefly fallen out with his mother but was otherwise close to his parents — even nicknaming his father "Rockstar".
The brothers began their career in property in 1995, when their grandmother loaned them £6,000 to buy and renovate their first flat in Fulham.
During the Holyoake trial, Nick Candy told the High Court that the brothers spent the following decade amassing "millions and millions" from buying and refurbishing properties. During that period, he said, they had "done, I think, almost 50 properties."
"I mean all across sort of Earl's Court, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, we had done property development," he said, and reeled off a list of some of the most expensive areas in London. These included: Manresa Road, once known as the third-most expensive street in London, Redcliffe Square, Bramham Gardens, Bolton Gardens, Roland Gardens, and Roulston Street.
But it was in 2006 the pair would land on their blockbuster project: the lavish One Hyde Park.
Strutt & Parker
One Hyde Park is located in Knightsbridge, where it's common to see Ferraris and Maseratis idling next to each other at traffic lights. According to earlier press investigations, the flats in the complex are owned by oligarchs, sheikhs, and celebrities, though the brothers won't publicly disclose their clients.
The luxurious development has come to symbolise one of the biggest problems with London's high-end property market: foreign millionaires parking their money in non-transparent, tax-efficient houses while the average worker struggles to buy a one-bed flat. There have been stories about how few One Hyde Park flat owners actually live there, and freedom of information requests in 2011 found that only a handful actually pay council tax.
The brothers operate through several companies, some registered offshore to the British Virgin Islands and Guernsey, but the two they talk about most publicly are Christian Candy's CPC Group, which buys properties, and Nick Candy's Candy & Candy, which does interior design. CPC Group is registered in Guernsey, while Candy & Candy is registered in London.
Here's a map showing some of the most expensive properties owned and redeveloped by the Candy brothers:
And here's a list of some of the boats, cars, and houses they've owned:
- At least two yachts, called the "Candyscape" and "Candyscape II," and a powerboat called "Catch Me If You Candy." Nick Candy also reportedly owns a yacht called "II.II," named after his first daughter's birthdate.
- A penthouse apartment in One Hyde Park, belonging to Nick Candy.
- A row of mansions in central London worth £200 million, which Christian Candy plans to turn into three luxury homes.
- An enormous Monaco penthouse called "La Belle Epoque," which the brothers sold for £199 million in 2010.
- Two Rolls-Royces, a Mercedes SLR McLaren, two Ferraris, two Range Rovers, a Cherokee Jeep, and ... a Renault Clio.
That the brothers seem inseparable is all part of the Candy brand, but they are in fact two quite distinct personalities.
It would be easy to assume Nick Candy is the younger of the two brothers. He is less financially successful. His face and figure are more fleshed out, his hair is tufty and unruly, and he often became emotional while giving evidence in court. During the case, he occasionally referenced his own career failures (as an accountant), and took more interest than his brother in who was watching the trial from the public gallery. In one instance he asked a theatre professor who had turned up to watch the trial whether he was planning to write a play about the case.
It's actually Christian Candy who is younger, but it's his CPC Group which takes on the real risk of property development, before Nick Candy's Candy & Candy steps in to help out with refurbishment. He cuts a tall, slim, dark-haired figure who cultivates a serious image with well-fitting suits and a stern manner. In court he was controlled and sharp, speaking with a slight lisp.
Mark Holyoake accused the brothers of loaning him £12 million, then using 'blackmail' and threats to force a higher repayment
According to Holyoake's account, he met Nick Candy while they were both students at the University of Reading. The two became friends, lost touch for a decade, but became reacquainted in 2007 through a mutual friend. According to Nick Candy, the two became "close friends," seeing each other every two to three weeks.
During this period of friendship, Holyoake was running British Seafood, a seafood importer which then collapsed in 2010. Holyoake was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, but the SFO terminated its case in 2013.
Then in October 2011, Holyoake decided to buy and redevelop a mansion block in Grosvenor Gardens, an exclusive area in London close to Buckingham Palace. Holyoake, through his company Hotblack, took on a debt facility from Investec bank to help with the approximately £42.5 million deal. But the bank didn't lend him the full amount — so he turned to other sources, including the Candy brothers.
According to Holyoake's account of events, Nick Candy unofficially brokered a loan from his brother Christian. Christian provided a £12 million loan to Holyoake, through CPC Group, in exchange for a 20% interest rate and 30% of the profit from the eventual sale of the revamped Grosvenor Gardens. On its face, the terms should have rung alarm bells — 20% is an unusually high rate of interest, the kind normally seen on high-risk credit cards.
Things went south from there.
Holyoake alleged the Candys' real intent was to "steal" the redevelopment and the subsequent profits. He claims he signed more loan agreements after being "threatened" by Christian Candy, and that he ultimately repaid £37 million. He said he was forced to sell Grosvenor Gardens earlier than planned, losing out on millions in planned profits.
All of this, he alleged, was because he was too scared for his family's safety to do anything except what the Candy brothers told him.
He alleged that Christian Candy behaved like "a gangster."
He said in his witness statement: "Chris had said previously, on numerous occasions, that he was going to ruin my life if needed that he would nuclear bomb me, fuck me up and fuck my world up and cause me complete financial ruin as well do everything in his power to make sure I never recovered. I can't remember a conversation where these type of threats were not said."
And while giving evidence in court, Emma Holyoake cried under cross-examination as she repeated allegations of harassment and intimidation.
At one point, according to Mark Holyoake, Candy referenced the fact Emma was pregnant.
He said in his witness statement: "Chris Candy said that 'You need to think about your pregnant wife' and said that he 'would feel terrible if anything were to go wrong during the pregnancy for her or the baby'.
"The manner and tone in which this was said was clearly intended to be a threat and I took it as such."
The Candy brothers denied making threats, but Christian Candy acknowledged that he had used "colourful language" while dealing with Holyoake.
When Holyoake's barrister, Roger Stewart QC, asked if Candy had told Holyoake he would "put him in a deep dark hole" at one point, Candy replied: "I said eff off and die. I was so frustrated with him, I had 28 months with this character. I didn't mean eff off and die, it wasn't an instruction to take a long walk off a short cliff."
Holyoake's lawyer pointed out connections between a murdered spy and an important Candy brothers associate
Stewart continued to pursue the idea that the Candys had issued threats during the cross-examination of other witnesses and defendants.
One strand of his inquiry involved the Candys and their coincidental connections to the murdered Russian spy and dissident Alexander Litvinenko.
One of the defendants in the case is Steven Smith, a founding director at Christian Candy's CPC Group. He was cross-examined during the trial about his association with RISC Management, a private investigations firm. Smith was director at RISC between 2005 and 2013.
The agency at one time made payments to Litvinenko, and the former KGB officer accused of murdering him, Andrey Lugovoy.
Under cross-examination, Smith laid out RISC's relationship with Litvinenko. He said Litvinenko and Lugovoy carried out investigations for the agency as "a double act."
Stewart quizzed Smith about RISC's "controversial" reputation. He then outlined how the Candys had hired RISC to run background checks on prospective buyers of One Hyde Park apartments. And Christian Candy revealed he had asked another former RISC director, ex-policeman Cliff Knuckey, for advice on recovering Holyoake's debt.
Stewart asked Candy whether he knew about Knuckey's reputation, describing him as an "illegitimate debt collector."
Knuckey was arrested in 2012 for alleged police bribery, though the charges were dropped. In an earlier case, a High Court judge ruled that Knuckey had pretended to be a representative for the Saudi Royal Family to dig for information on a prospective One Hyde Park buyer.
Christian Candy denied enlisting "thugs" to threaten Holyoake. He said: "It's not hoodies and baseball bats ... it's difficult to recover £17.4 million. I started with Cliff Knuckey as the ex-head of anti-money laundering."
Candy said he hadn't known of Knuckey's earlier arrest when consulting him about collecting Holyoake's debt.
There were more references to violence when Emma Holyoake said she "feared" for her husband's life because of mysterious deaths of three people linked to people who knew the Candy brothers, one of whom was a RISC client.
The Candys denied the allegations and in their closing statement described all of this as "unpleasant speculation", designed to "embarrass the defendants into settling."
In his judgement, Justice Nugee said it was "unorthodox" to have approached Knuckey to collect debt on behalf of the Candy brothers, but said it hadn't ultimately affected Holyoake.
In addition to allegations of threats, blackmail, and intimidation — accusations of tax evasion could ruin their wealth
If Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) takes an interest in Holyoake's claims of tax evasion, their fortune might come under closer scrutiny too.
HMRC is the UK's tax body, and has already investigated the Candy brothers between 2003 and 2007. The outcome of that four-year investigation was never disclosed. HMRC declined to comment both on the original investigation and the likelihood of a second.
Holyoake's barrister alleged during the trial that the Candy brothers had structured their businesses to avoid paying tax.
In his closing statement, Holyoake's barrister said: "[There] is a lie at the very heart of CPC ... In straightforward terms, CPC was set up for illegitimate financial gain at the expense of HMRC and the UK taxpayers and the benefit of both Christian Candy and Nick Candy."
Stewart's argument is basically this: Christian Candy and Nick Candy purport to own and run their two separate companies, with CPC Group run out of Guernsey and Candy & Candy run out of the UK. But, his argument goes, the two brothers are incapable of separating their affairs. Instead, they run their businesses jointly, and don't declare this to the UK's tax authorities. According to Stewart, the brothers have avoided paying "millions" in tax.
Here's one way Stewart attacked the question:
Nick Candy's Candy & Candy doesn't pay him that much as a company. When Stewart described Candy & Candy as a "minnow" compared to CPC, Nick replied: "You're correct."
Stewart asked how he had therefore managed to pay an alleged £1.2 million for Katy Perry to come and sing at his wedding.
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
"That's not my lifestyle, that's a one-off event," Nick replied. "I won't get married again."
And he added under cross-examination: "I am not a director or shadow director [of CPC]. I have never been to a board meeting of the CPC Group, this is a matter of fact."
Stewart repeatedly tried to trip up the brothers about the separation of their businesses. If the brothers were so separate in their dealings why, in correspondence, did they often refer to "we" and "us" when it came to making property deals?
Christian Candy described the examples as "loose language."
Stewart retorted: "You need multiple versions of the truth for multiple audiences."
In their closing submission, the Candy brothers said HMRC isn't party to the trial and said the question of company ownership was "irrelevant."
One tax specialist, speaking anonymously to Business Insider, said the allegations could be enough to make HMRC "curious."
The person said HMRC opens enquiries for "any number of reasons" — randomly, for risk assessment, alerts from algorithms, and tip-offs. But they said it was also possible HMRC had already examined the Candy brothers' tax structures.
In his judgement, Justice Nugee said it wasn't down to him to examine CPC or the Candy brothers over alleged tax avoidance.
The Candys are open about paying minimal tax.
During a 2010 interview with The Financial Times, Christian Candy played Monopoly with a reporter. When he landed on the "Super Tax" square, he exclaimed: "What! I don't pay tax. I am a tax exile."
And during the trial, Christian talked about being "prescriptive" about, literally, which country he slept in.
He said: "I lived in Monaco for 12 years, and spent 183 nights in the UK. I was prescriptive about what country I spent my nights in."
Holyoake brought in the CEO of a failed music startup to give evidence about Nick Candy
If Christian Candy was the man with alleged ties to questionable organisations and people, Nick Candy was "Clown Candy" with a more fun personality, according to the Holyoakes.
This characterisation of Nick Candy stacks up with previous reports, which suggest Christian is the "numbers man," while Nick is the showman who promotes the Candy brand.
In one email referenced during the trial, Mark Holyoake referred to Nick as "Clown Candy," because he was "jovial." The Candys, according to their defence, felt this was a derisory nickname that showed Holyoake wasn't really much of a friend.
In the witness box, Nick was often humorous, even when talking about his own alleged shortcomings.
At one point he said of his relationship with Holyoake: "There was banter, no problem. He called me 'Ricky Butcher' because he thought I was thick as two short planks."
It was difficult for journalists in the public gallery not to laugh, and Nick continued: "We'll probably read all about that in the national newspapers tomorrow, I look forward to reading that."
And Emma described Nick in her witness statement as "ultra-materialistic, a terrible name dropper, and more than a little boastful." But she added that she felt "he had a good heart" and that "his 'loads-of-money' demeanour was just a shield to hide his insecurities."
But according to one witness, Nick could be equally "bullying" as his brother.
Ian Roberts cofounded music startup firm Crowdmix in 2013. Its main investor was Nick Candy, who put around £10 million into the startup through his investment vehicle Candy Capital.
It collapsed before it ever launched a product, having burned through millions of pounds by throwing parties, and hiring celebrities and expensive consultants. Roberts was ousted as CEO of the company, and Nick Candy eventually bought Crowdmix's assets.
Sources who spoke with Business Insider last year claimed Candy forced Roberts out to take control of the company.
And in the witness stand, Roberts spoke up for the first time since his company collapsed to say exactly that.
"I thought that what they were doing was effectively blackmail," he said in his witness statement.
He also described Nick Candy as "a gangster", and suggested Candy had undermined the company's fundraising efforts by firing him and CFO David Newland.
He said: "I agreed [with cofounder Gareth Ingham] that Nick was acting like a gangster. He had put us at point of a gun and we were cracking."
Under cross-examination, Candy shot back. He described Roberts as "delusional" about his former startup's value, and described his investment as "the worst deal I have ever done."
He denied any wrongdoing. He asked Stewart, rhetorically, why he would plough almost £10 million of his money into a startup only to undermine it.
Though not directly relevant to Holyoake's claim, Roberts' appearance was intended to show how ruthless the Candy brothers could be.
The brothers have a complicated set of interests — and Nick Candy is slowly building a tech startup empire
It is difficult to unpick every company the Candy brothers have invested in, owned, or been involved with. But what little information there is suggests their interests are diversifying.
Christian Candy often does major property developments through offshore vehicles, like PGGL for One Hyde Park, or Project Blue for the Chelsea Barracks redevelopment, which took eight years to get off the ground. Another offshore firm, Dukes Lodge London Ltd, owns empty property near Grenfell Tower in Kensington.
And CPC struck a deal to buy a plot near Windsor in 2006 not by buying the land directly, but by buying a holding company which owned it. This only became public after a massive leak of documents from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, known as "the Panama Papers."
The Guardian reported that Christian Candy has reshuffled almost £340 million in assets this year, amid a wider slowdown in the high-end property market. There is no suggestion that this is connected to the case, but The Guardian reports Holyoake is watching the transactions for signs of asset dissipation — a way of hiding how wealthy you really are.
Nick Candy, meanwhile, has branched out from property, investing in advertising, broadband, and music firms.
His name appears 10 times on the UK's companies register across 30 companies, though not all of these are still active. Filings show he often invests through his venture vehicle, Candy Ventures SARL, which is registered in Luxembourg. He has another investment vehicle in the UK, Candy Capital.
Business Insider examined Companies House filings in April and found Nick Candy is involved with the following startups:
- Blippar — augmented reality
- Audioboom — audio and podcasting
- Sonr (acquired by Audioboom this year) — social listening
- Crowdmix (renamed Music Media) — music and social media. Crowdmix's former CEO, Ian Roberts, gave evidence against Candy during the Holyoake case.
- Hanzo — web analytics
- Satellite Solutions Worldwide — broadband
- Be Heard — marketing and advertising
It hasn't been an easy introduction to tech investment. Of these, Blippar, Audioboom, and Crowdmix are the best-known startups. Crowdmix collapsed, and ex-Blippar staff told Business Insider earlier this year that the augmented reality firm was struggling to generate recurring revenue.
The Candy brothers might find it tough to move on
The Holyoake case isn't the first or even second time the Candy brothers have had to fight a high-profile court battle. The brothers sued their Qatari partners for the failed Chelsea Barracks project in another expensive High Court battle, eventually settling out of court. And Christian Candy successfully fought to reinstate a private garden outside his £200 million Cambridge Terrace property in Regent's Park.
The Candy brothers have triumphed in this case.
But as Nick Candy noted in the witness box, it almost didn't matter what the outcome is.
"For the rest of my life," he said. "Whatever happens, people are going to think – even if you find us completely innocent – the rest of our lives there is going to be a slight smell, yes?"
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