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A minute on the clock: Johnny Sandelson

17 November 2005
A minute on the clock: Johnny Sandelson

The condo hotel concept has taken off in a big way in the USA. However, across the Atlantic in the UK it has been slower to
catch on. GuestInvest is trying to change all that. Emily Manson talks to the company's founder, Johnny Sandelson

Can you explain the GuestInvest concept?
It's providing an opportunity for people to buy real estate in the hotel sector. It's a hasslefree investment with a good return as well as the opportunity to stay in the room from time to time.

How long did it take you to come up with the idea? It took me about 10 minutes, but that wasn't the most difficult bit. The lawyers then made a fuss over it and it took another six months to get approvals from them, which was very frustrating. But it has also been about getting third parties to like the idea and seeing how fast investors would come to us.

How's the new advertising campaign going? It's extraordinary. We've had over 5,000 enquiries from the bus ads and we've just made a TV ad starring Yasmin Le Bon, taking her clothes off and getting ready for bed. We are expecting the response to be huge. We're combining selling a financial product with a lifestyle angle - it's a great message.

Why did it take so long for this concept to come to the UK when it's been in the USA for a while? It's taken considerable effort to weave the right legal framework to enable people to feel comfortable with their investment. We've invested a lot of money in sound legal advice to get the concept right from the beginning. Maybe that was what put off other people from doing it over here before me.

What's the secret of its success? People like to invest in property, but as the residential values in the UK have begun to stagnate, people have started looking around for other property investments to put their money in. We offer bite-sized commercial opportunities and have taken great care to ensure that our rules of engagement are clearly defined. We've got a design which works for London and other cities, both here and abroad, at the moment. The key is to keep the project sustainable and credible by not overselling assets and by looking after them. Investors will then receive an annual return. If it's not big enough, they can kick us out.

What are your plans for expansion? We have big ambitions. We won't work in England's provincial towns because there is no sustainable demand there yet. But we are getting calls from all over the world, including India, China, Japan and New York. Essentially, we'll go where the market tells us. If we get enough calls from people who want to go to Amsterdam, then we'll go and buy a hotel there. We'll have 2,000 individual rooms sold to investors by this time next year.

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