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Peter Stringfellow’s Palace in the Sun

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From booking The Beatles for £50, to signing Edwin Starr and Dusty Springfield and hosting performances from Take That, he has enjoyed an illustrious and fascinating career as one of our country’s most famous entrepreneurs. This self-made multimillionaire has built his dreams from the rubble of the Blitz, survived a prison sentence, bankruptcy and the New York Mafia to see his name up in lights on both sides of the Atlantic. A former steel worker and member of the British Merchant Navy, he has led an extraordinary life, opening clubs across the Pond, along with The Hippodrome and world-famous gentlemen’s club, Stringfellows, in London.

National treasure and legendary entrepreneur, Peter Stringfellow, talks to Angela Sara West about why he’s (possibly!) swapping his haven in Spain for Italy.

Having clocked up 54 years in the nightclub business, it’s time to wind down. “I now only have the one classic club, Stringfellows in Covent Garden. It’s been open 37 years and makes me more than enough money to enjoy the rest of my life,” explains Peter. “I haven’t just been the businessman in nightclubs… I’ve LIVED the life in my nightclubs almost every night of my life. I’ve had a wonderful time and now, I’m not retired, but I’m certainly leaning back a little!”

These days, he’s in his club three times a week. “Not bad for a 76-year-old! I go to my office around twice a week and am constantly on my iPhone, iPad… you name it!”

Peter wed his third wife, former Royal Ballet dancer, Bella, eight years ago. They have two young children, Rosabella, 3½,  and Angelo, 1½. “They’re an absolute delight! My whole life is wrapped around them and my wife. I’m a very happy and lucky man.” He also has two grown-up children from his first marriage. “My beautiful daughter, Karen, lives with her husband and my grandkids in America, where they have their own restaurant empire. My son, Scott, has two children, lives in London and is the director of Stringfellows.”

Peter Stringfellow family photo

Peter and Bella recently moved from their central London apartment on the Albert Embankment to leafy suburbia. “My young family has changed everything. Our garden was St. James’ Park! When the second baby came, it was time to move out.” The family now lives in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. “Our little girl goes to the local school. We’ll build a couple more bedrooms onto our 4-bedroom house here. We’re incredibly happy. This is a much more sensible way of living. I’m a commuter now!”

Peter has a long history with overseas property, having previously owned homes in the US. His favourites? “When I lived in New York, I thought that was it. When I lived in London at Harley House, I thought that was it. The same for when I lived in Miami’s Biscayne Bay at Coconut Grove, in Beverley Hills… even the hotels of Paris… Now, it’s Gerrards Cross.”

His house in LA was at the top end of Rodeo Drive. “It was GORGEOUS, I enjoyed living there but didn’t enjoy LA because my business was full of superstars who wouldn’t spend any money! They’re very spoilt, but nice people. I haven’t met a bad one yet. I’ve always enjoyed their company.”

Peter Stringfellow

Seventeen years ago, Peter purchased a lavish villa in Mallorca, which is very close to his heart but is now on the market for €3.75m. “An absolute bargain!” says Peter, who admits it would be a reluctant sale. “I may sell it, I may not. I’m in a position where I don’t have to. If somebody comes along that makes it easy and meets my price, then I will possibly sell it, but to let Mallorca go would be a major life changer. It’s been one of my main homes and that’s how it feels. It has a permanent housekeeper. It’s incredible. It’s my home…”

Peter Stringfellow

He and Bella seriously considered living in Mallorca rather than Gerrards Cross. “To live there, the children would go to the international schools, some of which are very good, but I’d need to travel every two weeks for three or four days in London for my business. As much as we love Mallorca, we eventually decided that would be too restrictive, but it was very close.”

So, they won’t be going to LIVE there, but why sell up? “We spend more time now going to Italy, where my wife’s family lives and we’re dictated to by the school holidays so, although we still love Mallorca, we just don’t have the time to go. I used to be on a plane every couple of weeks, but when you’ve got babies, you can’t do that. Also, the villa has steps, which is perfect for maybe a grown-up family, but not necessarily right for a two or three year-old. I haven’t GOT to sell it, but if I don’t, what am I going to do with it? I’m not particularly keen on renting it and don’t just want to own it as an investment.”

The former ladies’ man has enjoyed a long-standing love affair with the island, first visiting for a family holiday in the 70s, before being invited back around 1990 by a friend who had retired and moved there. “I liked it immediately. The first thing I did was buy a boat, which I lived on for around six years before buying the villa. I took the boat and lived in Ibiza for a while, then I met my wife and we decided that the villa was where we’d like to be. It became our home and that’s how we’ve lived our lives these last years, between Mallorca, London and Italy.”

Peter Stringfellow

Peter has owned (and now sold) two Sunseekers on the island. “I’ve had a wonderful time, sailing to Ibiza, Formentera and Menorca. It must be the best spot in the whole Mediterranean for boats.”

Affording breath-taking sea view, Peter’s contemporary-style property sits on an exclusive estate on a hill in Bendinat, overlooking upmarket fashionista hangout, Puerto Portals marina. The four-bedroom villa boasts four ensuites, a fabulous pool, and, of course, his legendary love for leopard print. “It was originally built by an American, so downstairs, it’s open-plan, which appealed to me, with the lounge, dining room, kitchen and what I call my office area, all open-plan on one floor, plus a small area where the original Stringfellows piano is.”

THAT piano, which went from London to Mallorca and is now earmarked for Gerrards Cross, has felt a fair few famous fingers in its time. “Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Little Richard and Elton John have all played it, Julian Lennon, another homeowner in Mallorca, tinkled away on it, my good friend Kool, of Kool and The Gang, also visited me there and played it…”

Peter Stringfellow

Has his Spanish home witnessed any wild parties? “No, I’ve kept it as private. Mallorca has been for laidback family time, and that’s how I like it. I host my parties in the club. I’ve occasionally hosted a Mallorca party for the locals and some friends. I once brought a couple of drag queens over from London, my good friends Ruby Venezuela and Ebony, and they scandalised, of course! Very naughty, the pair of them… People still talk about that!”

So, while the clubland Casanova mingles with the A-list at his London club, “Donald Trump, Simon Cowell, Rod Stewart… the lovely Charlie Sheen a couple of weeks ago,” Peter’s place in Mallorca’s not for hobnobbing, although the island is a magnet for Hollywood heavyweights, with Michael Douglas among the numerous homeowners there. “It’s nice to say hello to these people when we bump into them, but we don’t go looking for them. We frequent the same restaurants occasionally. Celebs invariably like to live and hang out in Deià, in the north.”

Peter Stringfellow

Peter lives quite a simple life there. “I keep chickens and ducks in my garden and play with a little vegetable patch. I love growing sage and lettuce, which come easy. I’ve got orange and lemon trees… That’s the good thing about living in the sun. All those things I’ve mentioned, you couldn’t buy them if you wanted them desperately in England. All this comes with living in the gorgeous Mediterranean.”

He’s also a keen cook: “I’ve got a wonderful kitchen, so I like to do a lot of cooking. It’s not your latest modern thing, but it’s got the island in the middle and it’s fabulous.” He also loves Mallorca’s prolific food markets. “Santa Catalina, in Palma, is a very special place, with wonderful, localised produce. If it’s not growing, they don’t sell it!” They have a great fish bar with fantastic, freshly caught fish. There are some great supermarkets, too.”

Peter Stringfellow

How’s his Spanish? “Café con leche, por favor and the other one is nada más… and now I’m struggling! When you’re in and out of the island, you don’t get much chance to actually learn it. If you lived there, you’d quickly adapt. And it doesn’t hurt to try!”

Having tamed his party-animal reputation, he’s developed a taste for restaurants: “That’s where we go to relax, now we’ve got babies.” They’re spoilt for choice with fine local eateries. “In my area, a favourite is Mood, which looks straight out onto the bay, has excellent service and food. It attracts the more affluent, starrier crowd and you never know who you might bump into… big names who live on the island. Not that we ever use the swimming pool, but it’s like a spa as well. In the port itself, another favourite is Ritzi, a lovely, fine Italian. If I went to Mallorca tonight, Chameli’s in Portals Nous would be my first port of call. The food is exceptionally good and such incredible value. I’m always amazed at how small my bills are there. Where in London it’s £100 a head, four of us sit in Chameli’s, dine, drink wine and struggle to pay £130 all in… and the food is incredible!”

“Di Benedetto in Bendinat was THE restaurant in Mallorca but, sadly, the guy moved back to England. That was easily one of my favourite restaurants of all time, not just on the island, anywhere. I miss that place…”

Peter has often ventured to the nearby capital. “Work on the cathedral is finished now and it’s even more beautiful than before. Palma is a wonderful city for eating… Namaste is my favourite Indian restaurant in the whole world. It’s consistently good and the owner is always there, which I like. In the early years, I did the lovely train journey through the lemon, orange and olive groves from Palma to Sóller, where a friend lived. On a beautiful day, it’s fabulous.”

Although he’s a sun-lover, he doesn’t do beaches. His favourite spot is beside his pool. “At the end of the day, what more do you want? There’s a very Spanish beach, Playa Panasonic, at the bottom of the hill just below Bendinat, where the locals go. It has a bar, cafés, boats in the bay… It’s not a mad, touristy spot. If I did go to the beach, it would be there.”

Philanthropist Peter never fails to support his good friend, Mallorca-based Robert Winsor’s celebrity golf tournaments. “I always turn up and sponsor when charity calls. I’ll go on stage speaking, buy tickets, tables, things from his auction… I love the golfer boys but I’ve never played golf in my life!”

So, he’s no king of golf clubs but as the king of nightclubs, has he been tempted to expand his business empire there? “No, Mallorca’s my haven. I’ve never really been to any of the clubs on the island.” How about local fiestas? “We see them in the port and they’re good fun.”

Peter Stringfellow

Any downsides to life there? “Truthfully, I’ve nothing bad to say about Mallorca. It’s a beautiful place. It’s even worth getting on easyJet to get there! That’s what I do!”

Regardless of whether he sells, Peter has more property plans; for Puglia, in Italy. “We’re buying land and building a villa in San Vito dei Normanni, Brindisi. It will be a year before it’s ready. Bella is half-Italian; her father is very English and her mother very Italian. I love the Italians. They’re all family crazy and when you go there, they go all out, have massive dinners and I love it! My mother-in-law is one of best cooks I’ve ever come across.”

Having plumped for Puglia, Peter believes it’s the next property hotspot. “The area’s probably like Mallorca was 20-odd years ago. It’s incredible value, the land is incredibly easy to buy and you can build a lot cheaper than anywhere else. I think I’m getting into Puglia before everything goes completely crazy!”

Peter’s project is proof that you can get a lot of Italian bang for your buck. “Believe it or not, we’re building a 4-5 bedroom villa in a gated community, with our own pool, large lawn, back field full of vines, side field which will be full of olive groves…. All for around €600,000-700,000.”

“Mallorca is now probably the most developed island in the Mediterranean, meaning developed well, not bad. It has a great infrastructure and Puglia hasn’t; that’s all still to come.” He stresses that Puglia is a “living area”, with barely a tourist in sight. “Don’t expect an Italian Disneyland. It’s rural, with fields full of artichokes, fruit trees and restaurants offering local, provincial Italian food. Northern Italians go there to live in the seaside area. I love the area. As with Mallorca, we’ll make this our fantastic family home.”

Does he speak the lingo? “The only Italian I know is grazie. That kind of works well for me!”

Peter prefers flying the family there by private jet. “I’ve used Ryanair a lot but now, with the babies, it’s a step too far.” Even his beloved, pampered pooches have enjoyed airborne VIP treatment, having recently moved from Mallorca to Puglia to live with Bella’s sister there while their new home is being built. The only solution Peter could find to comfortably transport them was to hire a six-seater private jet complete with a stewardess and VIP escort at either end… with Peter following them on an easyJet flight!

“They are four well-travelled little dogs. Two Chihuahuas and two Yorkshire Terriers. It wouldn’t be right to take them from what they’re used to, the Mediterranean way of living, to London, which would have given them a winter.”

“Life in the sun, it appeals to me. I mean, even my house here in London, my son always says ‘Dad, your house is like a greenhouse… it’s so hot!’ That’s how I like it. My heating’s on even in the summer. Mallorca appealed to me as Italy appeals to me. I can deal with heat – I love it! Good air conditioning is so important wherever you are if you’re in the sun though.”

Peter has numerous tips for readers considering buying anywhere abroad. “Don’t think you’re going to a different part of England or the UK… you’re not. Rent somewhere for three months before you buy. Once you know that’s where you want to be, then you can buy have a wonderful time there. Don’t buy anything if you’re on a stretch. If you can JUST afford it, it’s not a good idea. I’ve seen too many people get into trouble with the changing of the economies and with Brexit, who knows what’s going to happen. One minute the pound’s strong, the next it’s not. The winter’s probably better weather than the UK, but it can be very quiet. If you’re going to live in these places, you have to think that way. This is where you’re going to LIVE, not to have an elongated holiday.”

What will everyone’s favourite long-haired lothario miss most about Mallorca? “The lifestyle, the lovely times and great weather. It’s the safest, nicest place in the world to live. I love everything about the island. It’s the combination of all that. I’m going to miss it all. I’ve had wonderful run in Mallorca. I’ve matured my lovely villa over 14 years and it looks like me inside and feels like me… I put all of my effort into the villa, which has been sensational, and I’m going to do the same thing in Italy… I will remake it all again in Puglia!”

Fact box:

For further information about Peter and his nightclubs, visit www.stringfellows.co.uk
Villa enquiries can be made to Paul Baxter at The London Office: Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 0888 / email: paul@tlo.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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Having worked in various entertainment, music, news and language departments at the BBC in London, Angela Sara West went solo to realize her dream of luxury lifestyle and travel writing. From city guides and cultural tips, to high-end interiors and property pieces, her articles have been published in print and digital travel, lifestyle and business magazines around the world. She's also got her finger on the celebrity pulse, interviewing big names, including Ivana Trump, Suzi Quatro, Kelly Hoppen, Peter Stringfellow and Andrea Bocelli, and acquiring exclusive quotes from Michael Douglas, Claudia Schiffer, Enrique Iglesias and Sir Cliff Richard.
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Angela Sara West

Having worked in various entertainment, music, news and language departments at the BBC in London, Angela Sara West went solo to realize her dream of luxury lifestyle and travel writing. From city guides and cultural tips, to high-end interiors and property pieces, her articles have been published in print and digital travel, lifestyle and business magazines around the world. She's also got her finger on the celebrity pulse, interviewing big names, including Ivana Trump, Suzi Quatro, Kelly Hoppen, Peter Stringfellow and Andrea Bocelli, and acquiring exclusive quotes from Michael Douglas, Claudia Schiffer, Enrique Iglesias and Sir Cliff Richard.

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