Leslau cashes in pounds 5m Burford share options

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The Independent Online
Nick Leslau, the 36-year-old chief executive of the Burford and Trocadero property groups, cashed in share options worth more than pounds 5m yesterday to pay off personal tax and debts. Following the deal he still retains Burford shares worth another pounds 5m and a further 2.8 million options.

Considered one of the shrewdest property dealers, Mr Leslau has built Burford rapidly with his partner, Nick Wray, who made his fortune in the 1980s by buying a political newsletter and turning it into a widely-read City tip sheet.

Burford said yesterday that Mr Leslau had exercised his option to buy 4.8 million shares at 28.4p. They were placed in the market by BZW to raise pounds 5.14m excluding the cost of the options. Burford's shares, which have risen from 63p a year ago, closed 0.5p lower at 136.5p yesterday.

The rise in Burford's shares follows a decade during which the company's net assets have risen more than eight-fold, easily outpacing the rest of the property sector. As a result, the company has become one of the best regarded in the industry.

One of Mr Leslau's most astute moves was the pounds 96m purchase of the Trocadero site in the middle of London's Piccadilly Circus. Previously a white elephant, the Troc had brought down three former owners but was transformed into a leisure goldmine and spun off into a separately quoted stock market vehicle.

Mr Leslau persuaded Japanese games giant Sega to develop a virtual reality theme park inside the centre called Segaworld to capitalise on the vast numbers of young tourists who throng the West End each year but had previously walked past, or worse, through the Trocadero.

Other high-profile acquisitions by Mr Leslau and Mr Wray, dubbed with reference to the chairman of British Land the "Ritblats of tomorrow", have included the rights to Enid Blyton's literary estate including children's favourite Noddy.

The company also bought the London Pavilion, the shopping centre next to the Trocadero and announced a deal with Marvel Mania.