Jewish lobby threatens Candy brothers' US deal

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The Independent Online

They are the feted brothers of London's luxury property market whose services are courted by film stars and Russian oligarchs alike. In just 12 years, the Candy brothers' brand of bespoke opulence for the super rich has brought them wealth and kudos in Britain. But in striving to secure a place at the top table among the movers and shakers of California, the brothers, both in their 30s, are facing a serious problem.

Christian and Nick Candy, who with a £6,000 loan from their grandmother built a property design business worth an estimated £9bn, are now trying to allay the fears of members of the influential Jewish community in Beverly Hills over their associations with Middle Eastern financial backers.

At the heart of the controversy is a prime eight-acre £250m development in Beverly Hills, California, which the brothers are using as a first foothold in Hollywood's high-end property market.

According to the influential Beverly Hills Blog, local councillors, egged on by angry Jewish residents, have challenged the brothers to declare their links with the wealthy Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar and part owner of a Middle Eastern newspaper that the Californians accuse of being anti-Semitic and anti-American. The sheikh and the Qatari government have bankrolled a number of the brothers' developments in London, including the £900m acquisition of the Chelsea Barracks.

While the brothers' Middle Eastern links are of little concern in London, any suggestion that the sheikh is connected to 9900 Wilshire, the name given to the Candy brothers' LA development, is a different matter. The Beverly Hills Jewish community is sensitive about doing business with some Middle Eastern states and investors. J A Mirisch, the Hollywood film distributor behind the Beverly Hills Blog, says: "Are we really so desperate that we need to welcome into our community people who incite to further hatred against Jews and Americans, or, for that matter, people who see fit do business with such anti-Semites and America-haters?"

The brothers are well aware of the potential damage to their American dream and have tried to kill off the rumours. In March, Chris Candy, the older and more bullish of the brothers, flew to Los Angeles to try to reassure residents of the source of the investment for the luxury apartments. He made a similiar visit last year.

It was reported that tJimmy Delshad, who was Beverly Hills mayor, demanded to know who was really behind the project. Mr Candy, 34, told the city council there was no Qatari involvement and the only financiers for 9900 were the Candys' own Guernsey-based private-equity company, CPC Investments, and the Kaupthing Bank from Iceland.

Nick Candy said the project had caused them some problems but he claimed Mr Delshad was a friend: "We sent 9,000 letters to the people of Beverly Hills and have had 18 meetings with the planners. And I can tell you 200 per cent that Sheikh Hamad is not involved in this project. But having said that I think people can be very narrow-minded on this. I know [the sheikh] is a friend of America who is close to the American President and Arnold Schwarzenegger [the Governor of California]. The US Air Force even has a base in Qatar. We love the people of Beverly Hills but I think it's fair to say that this has been a lot harder than we thought."

Property ladder

1995 – At university, bought flat in Earls Court for £122,000 with £6,000 loan from grandmother. Sold within two years for a £50,000 profit.

1999 – Candy & Candy founded, after many successful sales. Now has more than 120 employees worldwide.

2005 – Met new backers in the Middle East paving the way for more expensive property buys.

2006 – Bought Kensington Palace and Kensington Park hotel site for £69m. Sold within two years to a Middle Eastern consortium for £320m.

2007 – Purchased 12.8 acre Chelsea Barracks for £959m to develop flats.

2010 – Estimated completion for 86 penthouses at One Hyde Park, London.