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
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 just 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
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
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
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
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
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
“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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 a
llegations of threats,
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
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
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”
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.
“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
In their closing submission, the Candy brothers said HMRC isn’t
party to the trial and said the question of company ownership was
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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) —
- 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?”