Luxury Legend Retires

23/03/2021

Octagon Developments co-founder steps down after 41 years.

David James, co-founder of The Octagon Group, retires on 31st March 2021 after 41 years as Managing Director (21 years), Chairman (15 years), and for the past five years as Non-executive Director.

The seeds for Octagon started in the early seventies when David met co-founder Roger Wyatt, both then newly qualified as Chartered Quantity Surveyors. After five years in private practice, David joined with Roger and a local solicitor Harold Moss to grow a property development company called Focus 21 Developments Ltd., based first in Teddington and then on the banks of the river Thames at East Molesey, the same location where Octagon sits today. Within 10 years it had grown exponentially, with a large residential land bank in prime areas of the South East, and completion of several successful commercial projects.

In 1979 along came Ideal Homes, part of the Trafalgar House Group, who made a handsome offer to purchase the company, principally to acquire its enviable land bank. As Harold Moss, the majority shareholder, wanted to retire from a busy business life which included a thriving legal practice, their offer was accepted.

As soon as the deal was completed, Roger and David felt they were far too young to retire, so dreamed up a new business model. Intending to keep it small, it  would specialise in developments they really enjoyed; unusual commercial opportunities and high-end residential projects in London and the Home Counties.

In 1980, and with just 8 employees, the name of the new company ‘Octagon’ was an obvious choice.  But the co-founders’ plan for a quiet life controlling a small development company lasted the proverbial five minutes, and soon the business was growing rapidly, becoming larger than the one they had just sold.

Within the first decade of being established, and very much driven by a young David James, record sales prices were being achieved for their luxury newbuilds. Octagon is believed to be the first company to sell a new-build house for over £1m, so the phrase ‘pioneers of luxury new homes’ was regularly tagged to their name in the national press – and still is to this day. As demand spread beyond their Surrey heartland, in addition to their East Molesey Headquarters and to cope with the impending 90’s boom, they opened branch offices in both Mayfair and North London.

The millennium arrived, and within the first year, Roger decided he wanted to enjoy more of the good life, so relinquished a substantial number of shares, which were bought jointly through a management buyout and the bank, he stepped down as executive Chairman, leaving David in overall charge. The following ten years proved turbulent, but David managed to steer the company through a succession of enormous challenges. Following the financial crisis of 2008, David believed the company would survive, as their product was still enjoying increasing demand, and welcomed Roger’s return, who alongside David, willingly bought back all the shares from the bank, who at the time held a minority equity stake. The company returned to 100% ownership, a status that remains today.

Tim Banks, Octagon CEO comments,

“I joined the company 23 years ago, and from day one David has been a huge influence on my life and career to date. A superb mentor, both in business and my personal life, he has consistently supported and tutored me. Octagon are delivering exceptional results, and our new business plans are firmly in place for future expansion, no small part due to David’s involvement at all levels.”

David, looking back with considerable affection on his long journey with Octagon, concludes,

“I am truly proud to have helped create this company, building a brand that is the envy of the house-building industry. It has developed many landmark buildings, designed and constructed in-house, thanks to the work of so many clever, hardworking, and talented people.

“Although retiring, I remain a shareholder and will continue to work closely in the management and refurbishment of my own portfolio of commercial properties as well as residential projects for my family property business where Octagon designs, builds, brands, and markets the homes.

“I am fully confident that Octagon’s new management team, directed by accomplished CEO Tim Banks, will take the company to exciting and unexplored heights, a journey I will be watching carefully during my own downtime on the equally demanding banks of the River Test.

“I sincerely wish the company and all its employees every success in the future.”

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