Peter de Savary just may be “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” An artist, first and foremost, he’s turned his creative streak into a string of lucrative careers, most recently as a developer of luxury properties around the world. Aside from that, he’s had various entrepreneurial pursuits across several industries, including shipping and shipyards, petroleum, import/export and hospitality. Though he’s originally from Great Britain, his activities have taken him around the world and across three continents. Nowadays, he tells us most of his time is now split between England and Grenada, in the Caribbean.
Luxury Living International checked in with de Savary to find out what makes him tick and what he’s been up to in the last few years.
De Savary traces the beginning of his development work back to 1976, when he built a luxury property on country club land in Heliopolis, Egypt, just outside of Cairo. After that success, he moved on to build the St. James Club in Mamora Bay, Antigua, a stunning property that he later sold to finance the building of Skibo Castle in the extreme northeast of Scotland. It’s clear, from talking with him, that he’s particularly proud of this property. “You can imagine it was very nice if the richest man in the world, at the time, chose to build there.”
He also makes mention of Cherokee Plantation, a South Carolina private club which boasts a stunning golf course and some of the best hunting on the East Coast of the United States. There’s a catch, though – it’s so exclusive, there are just 25 members. Also on the East Coast is Carnegie Abbey in Newport, Rhode Island, which has the standard de Savary luxuries: world-class golf, tennis and equestrian facilities, along with a marina and spa.
With winter setting in for the northern reaches of the globe, we wanted to talk warm weather spots, of which he has plenty. He recalls building the Abaco Club on Winding Bay in the Bahamas, which sits on the tiny outlying island of Great Abaco.
“When I finished the Abaco Club sometime in October of that year, I popped in on it all, stood at the highest point and looked down and said to myself, ‘you’ve done a hell of a job here. They’re going to love it here.’ It really was wonderful and still is today! A week after that came a huge hurricane. After the hurricane, I stood in the same spot with tears in my eyes and said, ‘what am I going to do? We’re fully booked and people are coming for Christmas in 3 months time.’
He credits the locals on Grand Abaco for what he calls “Herculean effort” in getting back to work to rebuild and re-beautify the property in just 90 days. They were successful and opened on time, near Christmas, to rave reviews. Though the infrastructural challenges were significant – even before the hurricane, he had to bring water, electricity, fiber optics and more to the remote island – he knows the limitations of his planning. “You can fix infrastructure. Mother nature – that’s always the biggest challenge. You can never fully account for that.”
His latest Caribbean project is in Grenada, which he considers to be the next hot spot. In particular, over the last eight years he’s developed Louis Bay, building a marina and some shops. He intends to continue to build residential properties, rental villas, a yacht club and a duty free shopping village. The crown jewel of his Grenada projects, so far, is his resort at Mt. Cinnamon, which routinely wins “best of” travel awards.
De Savary is nothing if not intensely inspired. The first and most important aspect of project building is scouting the location.
“I always look at property from the perspective ‘Would I like to come here? Buy here? Bring my family here? That’s the first criteria. It has to appeal to me, personally. I always look for a unique setting – think of a picture, the picture itself is the most important thing, but the framing is also extremely important. I look at the landscape, gardens, location and views – it has to have a ‘wow’ factor. A sense of arrival. It has to be exciting and attractive.”
And that’s just the grounds. He continues, “the buildings have to speak for themselves. I require excitement and character. You should be thinking ‘wow! I’m glad I came here.” It has to have a statement – it has to be alive and have passion. And, where possible, some form of history we can capitalize on.” De Savary also prioritizes taste and aesthetics. His ideal client has money, good taste and an artistic eye. He feels strongly that all of his projects should have a sense of him, the creator, in it.
“My properties are not Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons properties – those are commercial, done to make money. Of course, I want my investments to be sound but my activities are not about money. It’s about creating. It’s about the satisfaction of an artist who paints a picture. You’d like to sell your work of art for a lot of money, but truly great artists never had that as their main motivation.” He explains that his ultimate goal is to create properties and experiences that stand the test of time; he likens his work to that of an actor, who at the end of a performance wants to know that it moved people. Pleasure – for his guests, not him – is the ultimate objective.
As for other must-have amenities, golf courses generally top the list. A hallmark of any de Savary property is stunning, expertly-designed course, which has made his properties a magnet for golf travelers. Nice gardens, befitting a British developer, are also de rigueur. “I love gardens and trees – to me, a lush setting imparts a feeling of friendliness.” He also has a knack for designing posh tennis facilities, like the Martina Navratilova tennis center at the St. James Club in Antigua in the 1980s.
So, what does the future look like for Peter de Savary? He has no idea.
“I don’t currently have something planned – nothing in its early stages, but I know there will be something around the corner. Maybe next month, maybe next year, who knows? The excitement of not knowing is quite pleasurable in itself. The anticipation that you might find something that thrills you, to keep your ears to the ground and find that. That’s really the only goal I have right now.”
Though he hasn’t identified his next project yet, rest assured there’s a distinct feeling he gets when he knows he’s on to the next big thing. “When you’re going to sleep, on the plane, driving your car – and you’re still thinking about it. That feeling when you’re like, ‘oh my God – if I could just get my hands on this property.” We can’t wait.
Article by Jackie Bryant