PASSIONATE ABOUT BUSINESS Interview with Teddy Sagi

By Marianna Nicolaou
21 September 2021
PASSIONATE ABOUT BUSINESS  Interview with Teddy Sagi
A businessman, a risk taker, an entrepreneur, a visionary. Teddy Sagi, whose net worth was estimated in March 2021 by Forbes at net wealth USD5.5 billion, is all of these and more; a man who combines a vivid imagination with a strong desire and drive to make successful investments that can turn his dreams – and those of many others – into reality. He has chosen Cyprus as the base for some of his biggest and most exciting projects to date.
 
What made you consider Cyprus as an investment destination?
Cyprus is an amazing island with perfect weather, a unique geographical location, business-driven people, a good tax and legal infrastructure and high-calibre professionals offering honest, solid and cost-effective advice. Cyprus also offers safety and a lifestyle that encourages people to move and work here. In addition, the island’s EU membership and its proximity to other countries in which I operate was another factor. So, it always made sense to invest in Cyprus and through Cyprus, in terms of people, physical presence, and business connections, choosing it as the base of my Single Family Office, namely Globe Invest Limited.
 
How would you rate your experience as an investor in Cyprus? How does Cyprus compare with other jurisdictions in which you have invested?
There is always room for improvement and Cyprus can further upgrade the investor experience by modernizing its procedures, reducing bureaucracy and paperwork and making more and better use of modern technology to this effect. The fact remains, however, that Cyprus is a friendly and business-driven country. Cypriots are high-calibre professionals and hard workers. The Cypriot authorities are supportive of investment efforts and try to motivate and facilitate investors. The combination of all these is what makes Cyprus a competitive jurisdiction for investment.
 
What is the vision you wish to implement through the construction of Labs Tower? Why did you choose to invest in the real estate sector of Cyprus?
I am extremely proud to be opening Labs Tower, my luxurious high-tech 21-floor high-rise building in the centre of Nicosia, which is one of my biggest investments in Cyprus and accessible to the public. Labs Tower consists of 12 floors of high-tech offices (including co-working space under my global co-working Labs brand). Within these office levels are two additional levels of communal space with a cafeteria and gym, for the exclusive use of office staff to encourage wellness at work. Furthermore, there are four floors of luxury apartments and a two-floor penthouse nestled at the top of Labs Tower, a public restaurant/cafe and lobby on the ground floor, conference spaces on the first floor and an exquisite fine dining restaurant/bar with breathtaking views of the capital on the top floor. Labs Tower uses state-of-the-art technology and features the pinnacle of luxury design and furnishings throughout its offices and residences, combining materials, fixtures, fittings and artwork from Cyprus and abroad. I am using a team of local architects, project managers and contractors for the construction of Labs Tower, while my international team of experts (including designers) are actively involved to ensure that it meets the standards already applied by my Group in London and Tel Aviv. The Tower’s restaurants will upgrade the capital’s lifestyle and offer a unique dinning and café experience. The co-working concept of the Labs brand will introduce to Cyprus the concept of customizable workspaces designed for people to mingle, share ideas and concerns, innovate, connect, and thrive! The office spaces offer employees all the amenities they need to make their working day pleasant and inspiring, from the breathtaking views to the dedicated cafeteria and gym. The apartments and penthouse offer all the opulence and services that anyone could ever wish for in order to have a luxurious enjoyable stay in the Capital. Labs Tower will open in October 2021 and will host my Companies Group in Cyprus. It is, nevertheless, also open to anyone interested in being a part of this new, innovative and exciting way of working, living and socializing, the like of which has never been seen before in Cyprus. 
 
You founded your first company (Playtech) in 1999, at the age of 28. What led you to embark on this business endeavour at such a young age? 
People say I have a great eye for business and I have always been looking out for new business opportunities, exploring niche markets and finding the right people to support me. Technology has always been an area of interest to me and, back in 1999, I saw the need for a gaming software company, so I created Playtech, listed it in London and made it successful. Since then, my business-drive has led to many other successful projects, including SafeCharge, a global provider of payment services, risk management and IT solutions for online businesses and online payments platform, also listed in London which was sold for almost $1 billion. I am also the majority shareholder in Kape Technologies plc, an AIM-listed Internet security and digital distribution platform. Furthermore, I own an international portfolio of premium real estate in the UK, Spain, Israel, Romania, Cyprus and Greece with a focus on hospitality, residential and commercial properties. Playtech was the beginning and, since then, I have come a long way and I hope to go further, as I remain passionate about exploring business opportunities and being a leader in niche markets. I am confident that I will have more to show for myself in the coming years.
 
You have also invested in the London commercial property market via a notable investment in Market Tech Holdings, which owns the vast majority of London’s iconic Camden Market, as you mentioned. What does it feel like to own one of the world’s most famous markets?
When I bought Camden, I had a vision to convert it into a vibrant place for staying, working, shopping and entertainment and I believe I have achieved that. My aim is to further enhance the area’s popularity and make it a globally recognized must-visit place. Via LabTech Group, I am the owner of the four most important of the six sections of the Camden area, which is London’s second most popular tourist attraction after Buckingham Palace. As well as Camden Market, Stables Market and Camden Lock Developments, LabTech owns Camden Lock Village Stables Market and numerous other properties within the iconic Camden markets area as well as Holborn Estate properties and Victoria House in Holborn area in London. LabTech Group is a unique platform for the combination of real estate assets, co-working and residential premises. It offers people a unique co-working environment with all the facilities necessary to develop their business while enjoying a relaxing environment which allows them to socialize, exchange ideas, share concerns and be innovative. Camden also offers a great cultural and entertainment platform, which I hope to further expand over the coming years.
 
You have invested in various sectors, ranging from real estate to technology. How do you feel each time you delve into a new market?  
I always had and still have the drive to explore new fields and opportunities! New and niche markets are always challenging but yet intriguing! Having the right people to consult with and support you, carrying out proper due diligence and choosing the right partners that will drive the business forward are key.
 
What does 2021-2022 look like for the commercial real estate market, following the impact of the pandemic?
The pandemic has undoubtedly affected people’s lives and businesses negatively, and that includes commercial real estate as well. However, it has also offered innovative possibilities such as affordable rental and acquisition prices and efficient electronic trade and communication. It is all about owning and/or using the correct type of commercial real estate. As a result of the pandemic, people have started to appreciate the flexibility advantage of co-working, the importance of an inspiring environment, a nice house or office, facilities such as a staff kitchen and gym, restaurant access and the ability to socialize. Thus, people pursue areas and premises that offer them not just a place to stay or work but an environment they can enjoy and grow in. A place like Camden in London or Labs Tower in Cyprus offers just that: a community of people equipped with a full infrastructure of whatever they need, not just a simple real estate investment. Commercial real estate will gradually recover as soon as the pandemic’s impact starts to fade but people’s needs, requirements and demands have changed forever! 
 
Has COVID-19 affected the way you review an investment and its risks? Has it made you more cautious/daring when assessing your next investment move? 
From a business perspective, COVID-19 has caused significant disruption. But disruption creates opportunities for investors and, of course, all opportunities bear a risk that a good businessman should be able to identify, address and/or mitigate. The pandemic has comforted me by confirming the view that technology is the way forward. I believe that e-commerce and e-payment services are particularly attractive investment areas at this time. Hence, here in Cyprus, I have started Pay.com Group, a global provider of payment services, risk management and IT solutions for online businesses and an online payments platform company that I strongly believe will follow SafeCharge’s successful path. Pay.com’s corporate structure, substance and headquarters and key operations are based in Cyprus and it is in the process of obtaining a payment institution licence from the Central Bank of Cyprus. Pay.com employs a great number of highly qualified and experienced professionals from Cyprus and abroad. The Group also has a presence in the UK and is in the process of obtaining an FCA license. This online traffic will further enhance the need and value of companies like Kape Technologies plc, my majority owned AIM-listed Internet security and digital distribution platform.
 
What do you expect to be doing in 10 years from now?
With the support of my family and family office, Globe Invest Limited, which is also located in Cyprus, I hope that I will continue doing good business successfully, in a way that will positively affect people’s lives by offering employment and career development opportunities as well as quality services and products, along with an ideal working and residential life to our customers and employees. My ultimate goal is to contribute towards noble causes such as education, health, culture and environmental protection.
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