Aboard Alfie Best Wyldecrest’s Sunseeker Yacht
At number 232 on the Sunday Times rich list, Alfie Best is Britain’s richest Roma gypsy. He made his millions selling static homes across the country, and now the owner of the new 27.5 m 90 Ocean Sunseeker recount Charlotte Hogarth Jones he also spotted a gap in the rental market…
Like many owners fresh off their first trip on their brand new boat, Alfie Best is a bit on the right track. “I have to say that I have a jet plane and a helicopter, and they were phenomenal experiences,” he says. “But having a yacht is ten times better.”
After spending two weeks touring Mallorca, Ibiza, Alicante, Puerto Banus and the South of France with his son Alfie Best Jr., he discovered what many before him had learned to love about yachting. “It allowed us to spend time together to talk about things we wouldn’t normally talk about,” he explains. “The times when we would come home and have dinner with the family seem to be non-existent now – and that’s what yachting does for you.”
Sure, he admits, there was the joy of waking up each morning in a peaceful, secluded cove, watching the yacht set in against the backdrop of an amazing restaurant or a scenic mountain peak — but that it was the quality time together that he found the most rewarding and the feeling of freedom.
With his many admirers at the port, Wyldecrest wasn’t a bad PR tool for Best, either. “I think the name is very appropriate, because it’s Wylde as wild and ridge as wave of the sea,” he says. “But it actually means something completely different – it’s our company name – so it’s great marketing for us as well.”
Best’s core business, Wyldecrest Parks, is a series of static home developments across the UK. It currently has over 100 parks, hosting 16,000 UK residents (largely retired or semi-retired), of which 109 are due to arrive by the end of this year and further developments are also planned in America.
The company is enjoying ever-increasing success, earning it the Entrepreneur of the Year Signature Award and NSMA’s Business & Finance Influencer of the Year in 2021. Wyldecrest the yacht, however, Best believes will “score big” in the charter market, seeing it as a test before expanding its fleet with similar vessels.
Wyldecrest is managed for charter by West Nautical
“We really went the extra mile with this,” he says of the boat. “I set it up with brand new jet skis, brand new Seabobs. a jet pack, an inflatable pool… And I did it because on a yacht of this size I wanted to create a superyacht at a affordable level,” he explains. With a 7.16m beam and a fully extendable beach club that unfolds using electric motors, Best says that when Wyldecrest is anchored, “you can’t tell the difference between her and a 165 footer.”
“In Marbella we were next to a 135 footer, and we looked like the biggest boat,” he said in amazement. “What we tried to do was create a yacht with everything you would want, but at half the price of a yacht that would be the same size [when Wyldecrest’s platform is extended].”
Best, who predicts another recession on the horizon, thinks charterers will soon spot the value in his offering. “Pay €80,000 per week instead of €125,000 to have the same facilities? ” he says. “It’s a huge saving. We already have six weeks of charter bookings, which I think is phenomenal, given that you’re starting with something new, and we’re looking to grow that model 100%. »
Despite this, however, he says he would sell Wyldecrest now for the right offer. “I come from a bit of a superstitious background,” he says. “So everything is for sale. The reason is that I believe we are here to hold things and pass them on to everyone to enjoy in life. It should be a circle.
Mediterranean ports are a world away from where Best grew up in a caravan in Lutterworth, Leicestershire. “My mum and dad were hard working people,” he explains. “My dad is my idol – he’s 77 and still works seven days a week, doing manual labor.”
Best received “periodic schooling” and worked with his father until he was 14, doing odd jobs door-to-door. A career in static homes was a natural fit for him, he says, “because I have a real passion for this craft – and I know better than anyone how a caravan works. Caravans are in my blood.
There’s no doubt that Best inherited his father’s work ethic, working 16-17 hour days and often spending the night at various parks to test out the facilities, despite owning his own home in Knightsbridge, in London. He attributes his success to “a certain amount of luck”, but also to “hard work – just courage – blood, blisters and tears”.
With Static Homes costing around 50% less than the traditional brick-and-mortar alternative, not to mention savings on council taxes and utilities, Best sees parks as not only a money-making business, but also a real solution to the current affordable housing crisis in Britain. It took 35 years for the company to reach the level at which it currently operates. “It wasn’t an overnight success,” he admits, “but if I look back [a moment in my life] then and think of today, the difference is huge – it’s a world apart.
Read more/Sunseeker 90 Ocean: on board Sunseeker’s new flexible yacht
Not everything was easy either. During the 1990 recession, Best was “virtually bankrupt”, recently divorced and living on the mattress in the back of a Ford Escort van, “letting go and saving” to meet mortgages on his various properties. It’s a time, he says, that still gives him chills.
“I had a house that was worth £550,000 which I bought, I had a mortgage on it for £250,000, and it collapsed at a price of £200,000 – so I owed the bank more than the property was not worth”, he explains. “I also had a block of five or six flats that were worth £400,000, I had a £225,000 mortgage on them, and they dropped to a value of £175,000…the thing that got me saved – and I didn’t realize it saved me at the time – was the negative net worth, because it wasn’t worth the bank taking them back, as long as I paid the mortgages.
He sees another recession on the horizon and is on the lookout for business opportunities – like his charter of Wyldecrest – to adapt to changing moods. “People are going to make corrections,” he predicts, “and all of a sudden, if they feel like they can get almost the same value for a little less…” he trails off.
Part of Wyldecrest Parks’ success, he explains, and something he’s sure to bring to his other businesses, is his ability to read people and hire strong staff. “Never ask anyone to trust you,” is his best business advice, “because if you ask people to trust you, they’ll accept whatever you say is right, and they won’t check.” I have a fantastic team around me because they check – and when people do it for me, I make fewer mistakes,” he says.
Wyldecrest Parks doesn’t market solely to the Roma community (in fact, 99% of shoppers come from outside), and Best is clearly frustrated and upset with the stigma that comes with the label. “You’re not going to openly declare that you’re a gypsy when you’re in business because that comes with that stereotype,” he says. “I believe this is the last acceptable form of racism – actually it’s not racism, I call it what it is, which is abuse. And it’s getting worse. »
When it comes to the future of the family business, he is keen to provide for his children, Alfie and Elizabeth, but is wary of the pitfalls that wealth brings. “They would say I’m tough, they’d say I’m tough,” he says. “Do I give them help? Of course I do, I try to give them good advice, and if they need loans to start businesses, I’m happy to do that, but the money has to be paid back. The fact is that raising children is not easy, there is no guide for it. Personally, I think the best thing my dad has ever done for me is – what I try to do for my kids – to be the advice they need, to lead by example.
As his business expands overseas – and yachts in other ports await him – a departure from Britain could be on the horizon, he says. Best is disenchanted with the current political direction. “Do I think it was the right thing to do to get out of Europe? No, not really,” he says. “But once the vote has taken place, once our country has decided it and our people have voted, let’s move on… But they didn’t,” he says of today’s politicians today.
“I would love to stay in the UK, but this country makes it so difficult for successful people,” he continues. “What they do is reward people for coming in, but they chase wealth. I have options all over the world to relocate and I will. I will either go to Monaco or Dubai or somewhere more tax efficient for me as a person.
When not working, Best boxing, as does Alfie Best Jr., but his hobbies are otherwise limited. “Alcohol, drugs, sex, rock ‘n’ roll…” he laughs. “Actually nothing, which might make me a bit of a boring person.”
“The thing is, I have fun doing what I do, and I’m afraid I won’t do it,” he continues. “I’m afraid I won’t, because I never want to go back to sleeping in the back of a van again.”
Wyldecrest is managed on charter by Western Nautical.