Jack Dellal: Tycoon who hit property peaks

In the 1980s he bought Bush House in London for just £55m and sold it on, two years later, for £130m

Jack Dellal was an enigmatic, controversial property tycoon who emerged unscathed from economic crashes over several decades. He was widely regarded as one of the most remarkable money- making machines in the City of London over the past 65 years.

Dellal was nicknamed "Black Jack", either because he liked gambling, especially playing cards, or because he had been a dealer in black cloth in Manchester early in his very long working life. He built a colourful reputation as a property genius with shrewd, often risky, deals in the 1970s and 1980s. His most notable deal – or his most notorious one, depending on your viewpoint – was his sale of the BBC's World Service offices, Bush House, in London, when he made a serious killing; he acquired the property for a paltry £55m in 1987, and then sold it on two years later to Japanese investors Kato Kagaku for £130m.

Although the deal had led to an investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry, no impropriety was found. The Sunday Times asked "Has Dellal called the top of the market?" He had. Within weeks, economies around the globe were hit and the property market collapsed.

Dellal pulled off the same trick in a similar, peak of the market, moment, in July 2007. Five years earlier, Dellal, in a group with David and Simon Reuben and protégés Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz, had bought one of London's most iconic buildings, the art deco Shell-Mex House on the Strand, for £327.5m: they sold it to a US private equity firm for £490m, with £150m cash profit that was shared among Dellal and the others. Once again, he had sold at the peak of the boom. Months later the world, and property, went into a recession from which it has yet to recover.

The diminutive Dellal was the son of Iraqi-Jewish émigrés Sulman Dellal and Charlotte Shashoua. He was educated at Manchester's Heaton Moor College, and began working in the city's textile industry buying and selling cloth, while also speculating in property. He then made a bold move to London.

There he went immediately into property and began a 40-year association with his business partner Stanley van Gelder. They became involved with the fast-growing, Knightsbridge-based, fringe bank, Dalton Barton Securities. In 1972, Dellal made his mark; the securities firm was sold for £58m, to Keyser Ullmann (KU), the bank that was chaired by Edward du Cann, MP. Dellal then became deputy chairman of KU and he established Allied Commercial.

At the time, the British economy was enjoying the cheap money policy of Edward Heath's Conservative government, which had been meant to strengthen UK industry before the country entered the European Community. Because of the low interest rates, property developers borrowed heavily from banks to finance housing schemes, believing that rising property values would finance them adequately until the initial investments paid off.

Dellal's company was among the borrowers of KU, as were many important dealers in London property. Then the crash came. In 1973, the over-borrowed property developers were caught by the quadrupling of oil prices after war in the Middle East, which then led to high inflation, higher interest rates and dramatically lowered property values. The market collapsed, causing some of the most spectacular bankruptcies in history. Fringe banks had catastrophic losses.

KU had very little liquidity, so the Bank of England had to intervene, providing £65m of "lifeboat" support loans to keep the business alive. The Bank replacing the company's management. Du Cann was declared bankrupt. Dellal, who surprisingly emerged unscathed, resigned in July 1974, and the rest of his executive team soon followed him out of the firm, but there was little doubt in the financial world that Dellal, whose private firms had continued to derive their finance from KU, was a prime culprit in the near disaster at the company.

Always a cool and opportunistic investor, Dellal then went to New York, where he continued to speculate and earn fortunes in Manhattan real estate. He returned to the UK the 1980s.

In 2002 he made an audacious bid, which was rumoured to be £125m, for the remaining 33-year lease on Dolphin Square, a vast 1930s apartment complex in Pimlico within walking distance of Westminster, and therefore housing as many as 70 MPs. Despite offering each resident a £17,500 windfall, his bid failed.

Dellal continued to run his property company, Allied Commercial Holdings, well into his eighties, with the help of his son Guy. In 2011, he was worth a reported £445m, which was down from over £600m in 2008. Vincent Tchenguiz said: "Jack was very helpful and we did some deals with him. He was a great guy but we found we could beat him at cards."

Dellal was reclusive and shunned interviews with the press, and he was never flash or flamboyant. But he enjoyed a jet set lifestyle with houses in Holland Park, London, Cape Town, South Africa, France and Monaco.

Dellal, who died in his sleep, had two children with his second wife, Ruanne, a former Miss South Africa, and seven children with his first wife, a former Israeli air stewardess.

Jack Dellal, property magnate; born Chorlton, Manchester 2 October 1923; married twice (eight children, and one daughter deceased); died London 28 October 2012.

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities