Tony Pidgley explains why he bid for his father's company and how, in the end, family comes before business.
Entrepreneur Tony Pidgley Jr has ruled out another bid for Berkeley group, his father's housebuilding empire.

Pidgley Jr launched an audacious £1bn attempt to take the company private last month, two years after leaving the group. But news of the bid leaked prematurely, leading to an instant rebuff from Tony Pidgley Sr and the Berkeley board.

In his first interview since the bid, the rumours of a family feud and lurid allegations in the Sunday tabloids about his personal life, Pidgley Jr told Building that he was no longer interested in succeeding his father as the boss of Berkeley.

He said: "A second bid is wholly unlikely because I value my relationship with my father far more than I do making money.

It was my son’s sixth birthday on Monday and my father was round like any normal grandad

"If the press are going to comment as they did about him and me, and speculate that we've fallen out … I don't think it does anybody any good."

Pidgley said that he remained close to his father. He said: "It was my son's sixth birthday on Monday and my father was round dropping off the presents like any normal grandad. He understood that the bid wasn't a whim."

The 33-year-old admitted that he had mishandled the public presentation of the bid. He said: "If you are going to criticise me at all, I might suggest that it be for underestimating and not managing better the public relations side of it."

The experience with Berkeley has not deterred Pidgley and his team of institutional investors from pursuing other housebuilders. The team met this week to identify possible targets, although Pidgley dismissed rumours that he had taken a fancy to Taylor Woodrow. Whichever company the team chooses, it is likely to be a public company because Pidgley believes that housebuilders are undervalued by the stock exchange.

He also hit back at allegations made by his former wife after the Berkeley debacle.

He said: "I was 21 years old when I married my first wife. I made a mistake and got married to the wrong person. She decided to do something [go to the press] for reasons that only she will understand. I haven't spoken to her."

After the allegations made by his ex-wife, some in the City suggested that Pidgley Jr's reputation had been seriously dented.

My mother gave me a loan for Thirlstone. We are talking about hundreds of thousands

But Pidgley dismissed this claim, noting that he had completed a deal this week to convert an office block into flats. He said this showed that he still had the backing of the market.

Pidgley also disclosed that his mother, Ruby, lent him the money to set up his first housebuilding business when he was 21. He bought Thirlstone Homes in 1991.

Pidgley said: "She was a very small investor at the start. She basically gave me a capital loan, which I set up. For about 18 months she left that loan in and then it was repaid. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds."

The business was later bought by Berkeley in 1998 for £15m. Pidgley joined the company as managing director of Berkeley Homes and heir apparent to his father's empire.

No regrets over bid

Even though it has been less than a month since the collapse of his dream of owning Berkeley Homes – and lurid allegations about his personal life in the tabloids – Tony Pidgley Jr was in remarkably bullish form when he met Building. Pidgley stressed that he was making “no apologies” for his actions. He did not regret launching the bid, he emphasised his successes during his time as managing director of Berkeley Homes, and listed the profitable projects being undertaken by his company Cadenza. He was particularly dismissive of claims that he had overstretched himself by trying to buy one of the country’s biggest housebuilders – despite the fact that his own company reported a turnover of £670,000 in its last results. “I don’t think that size is relevant,” he said. “What we were looking to do was take an undervalued asset base and capitalise on it by buying at a time when the stock exchange wouldn’t give it any credence in terms of value.”

Pidgley’s father made a number of appearances in the conversation. Pidgley Jr noted that his father is rightly considered an “industry guru” and chuckled at the – apparently true – story that is often told about the two of them: “There’s that famous story about this plot of land that he nicked off me over a Sunday lunch when I was at Thirlstone Homes. To him it was a case of ‘that’s a good lesson, son’. It’s his way of being a father.”