Five minutes with: Alex Verbeek of IDI Gazeley

IDI Gazeley’s senior vice-president on Richard Branson, the impact of ecommerce and dog walks.

What is the best decision you’ve made in your career?

Accepting an offer from Nick Redwood to join Gazeley in 2005. I consider myself very lucky. I enjoy my job - I haven’t had ‘Mondayitis’ for 11 years.

What is your greatest work achievement?

Turning Magna Park in Milton Keynes from a lorry park into 4.5m sq ft of the prettiest sheds in the world.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

In the mid-1990s at Jones Lang Wootton (JLW) we sold Wimpey’s HQ in Hammersmith. We took Henry Moore to the River Café, my first proper deal celebration lunch. Amid the fun, Henry grabbed my arm and said that while it’s great to work hard and be ambitious, don’t look back and wish you’d been there more for your kids growing up. My wife might not agree, but as a dad I do as much as I can.

What was the best industry after-party you’ve attended?

The annual Concrete Block Awards, attended by a collection of logistics agents, funds and developers, is always a great afternoon with friends. One year there was a press-up competition on the restaurant table to decide who would pay the bill.

What has been your most embarrassing industry moment?

When I was a graduate investment agent at JLW, Alastair Hughes asked me to park his car north of Oxford Street and when he went to collect it, it had been ticketed, clamped, then towed away. What do they say about getting the simple things right…?

What is the worst travel experience you’ve had while working in the property industry?

While sailing to the Isle of Wight in terrible conditions for Cowes Week, our boat narrowly missed getting T-boned and almost capsized. We were below in a cabin with the toilet door open. Nobody went overboard but we all got very ‘wet’.

Who is your business idol and why?

Richard Branson. He’s a highly successful self-made man running a highly diversified, multifunctional, international business, yet the only photos you ever see of him are engaging in endurance sport, charitable work or sitting on the beach.

What is your favourite property in the UK?

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton, built as a playhouse for King George IV. It was remarkably ahead of its time, embracing international architecture and interior design.

What is the best thing about the industry?

The people, who in the logistics market are generally without ego, straightforward to deal with and take what they do seriously without taking themselves too seriously.

And the worst?

In my experience, property people don’t see change as part of their DNA. Like the economy and the occupier market we serve, we must be open to evolution in the sector. Change is good.

If you weren’t in your current post, what would your dream job be?

Anything that didn’t require the use of a mobile handheld device; I have a love/hate relationship with 24/7 information.

What could have the biggest impact on the property industry in the next 10 years?

We are only at the very beginning of how massive the impact of ecommerce will be on real estate. Shopping centre design, high-street retail, residential and the logistics sector will all continue to evolve and the UK planning system needs to evolve with it.

What was your first car?

A black five-door Mini Metro City X. You could pimp that ride as much as you liked and no matter how loudly you listened to Nirvana, you would always look like you’d borrowed it from your mum, which in my case was true.

What is your ideal holiday?

Collioure in the south of France for the St Vincent Music Festival in August with my wife and children. Hard to beat live jazz on the beach as the sun sets with a bottle of rosé.

What was your childhood ambition?

To be a pilot, but being colour blind put an end to that.

What is your favourite way to relax?

It’s simple, but nothing beats a family dog walk in the bracing British weather with a flask of tea in the middle of nowhere.

What is your culinary guilty pleasure?

Tom’s Kitchen at St Katharine Docks does a burger called a Cardiac Stack. Need I say more?

Do you have any weird/unusual/exciting hobbies?

In my teens I was a pro-am BMX freestyle rider. These days it’s just off-road mountain biking when I can dig the bike out of the shed.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Anywhere without sideways rain for seven months of the year.

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