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Part 2: Enter the Knight Dragon with Richard Margree

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And just like that…it’s 4 months on since we last invited Richard Margree – CEO of Knight Dragon – into the devcast… studio. 

They say the second album is always the hardest, and we firmly believe Margree provided a chart-topping episode packed full of insight, forecasting and personality.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the first episode in the series, you can listen online and read the supporting article here.

Here’s a quick recap:

  • Richard Margree spent a large portion of his career working in the magic circle; he became a partner at Clifford Chance in 2001. In fact, the cohort of senior leaders at Knight Dragon includes many individuals from a non-property background, or who did not obtain a degree in Real Estate at Reading. 

  • Knight Dragon created the Greenwich Peninsula, a ‘Mini Manhattan’ which is twice the size of Soho and it's got a mile and a half of direct river frontage.

  • Greenwich Peninsula is the home of the Design District, it's trademarked as a place for brilliant creatives to come together.

  • London is a fantastic global city. Yet, we need to be making sure that what we do looking forward is also fantastic and we’re not just trading off the good from the past, sites still need to be exciting.

For an excerpt of the sequel to ‘Enter the Knight Dragon’, scroll down…

What are you forecasting this year?

It's as much guesswork as everyone else's at the moment. I think the next big wave of COVID consequences is going to be the mental health implications of where everyone finds themselves. I speak for me and my business and the people I knoweveryone has taken certainly half a step back physically, but half step back mentally as well. So, if we have done it, then presumably everyone else in the world has done the same thing. Getting everyone to be a little more kind and considerate, but at the same time, robust and determined is going to be a tricky challenge for those in charge.

What else is going to change in 2022 in terms of markets, conditions, or themes?

We still clearly have a huge problem with supply and demandand there is no indication at the moment that that is going to change anytime soon. To have a holistic approach to things, we have got to realise that the rental is a brilliant asset class, but it isn't doing that much to solve society's concerns and rightly so.

Second is cladding which needs to be dealt with swifter. I think people need to have more reassurance and confidence in the industry overall. 

And the third is - there wasn't really going to be a third but - we have to realise, societyhas to realise,and the world has to realise that we've got to combine ‘let's be smart’, ‘let’s be profitable’, but at the same time‘let's be decent and let's be honest’.There has been and there continues to be with what is on the news all day, every day at the moment,continued failure for people to be transparent.

I'd like to get your thoughts - on the record -the ownership structure. Sammy and Henry are Hong Kong based and super successful businesspeople investing in a massive chunk of London. Can you talk about the dynamics?

I've said openly, we have an extraordinary level of trust and a very strong mandate. Hong Kong has its own things that it's clearly going through at the moment. If you asked me, Henry and Sammy, did we think we'd be where we are now? The answer would be no, we'd be comfortably further forward, we'd be comfortably more dynamic, and we would be bluntly, more profitable.

“It's all about confidence, all about confidence, all about confidence”

Look at the English cricket team, and it's all about confidence. That applies as much to success as it does to failure. To some extent, these things become contagious.

The clue is in the name,‘developers’. Weshould be developing ‘stuff’ and currently don't have a crane on site. We now have the final referral through of our huge and long running planning scenario, which is going to completely open up and transform the Peninsula, which is fantastic. 

But that comes with two things: that's a big capital investment and it's a big confidence statement on our on our part.While we have such uncertainty around global conditions, such uncertainty around COVID but a relatively simple statement of confidence now is overlaid by a whole bunch of imponderables.

You're going to get people saying, I'm disinclined, or let's hold back. Waiting is very perilous for all of us. So, pausing might be a sound thing to do, but how long will it take to get that momentum and confidenceup again, and the confidence creates you.

Good places, if you overcook it could create short-term thinkingand homogenized phony places. We always knew we were in it for the long term, we always knew the Peninsula had that dynastic feel about it. It'd be fair to say that there is a significant degree of frustration that you have not been able in the last little while to move forward as quick as we wanted. 

Listen to the full podcast where Andrew Deverell-Smith questions Richard Margreefurther on the largest regen scheme in Europe, innovation and challenging the status quo of the conventional built environment.