Sunseeker 90 Ocean Wydlecrest owned by Alfie Best

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Why Britain's wealthiest Romany gypsy Alfie Best swapped static homes for superyachts

1 August 2022• Written by Charlotte Hogarth-Jones

At number 232 on The Sunday Times Rich List, Alfie Best is Britain’s wealthiest Romany gypsy. He’s made his millions selling static homes across the country, and now, the owner of the new 27.5m 90 Ocean Sunseeker tells Charlotte Hogarth-Jones he’s spied a gap in the charter market too…

Like many owners fresh from their first trip on their brand new boat, Alfie Best is on somewhat of a high. “I’ve got to say, I’ve got a jet and I've got a helicopter, and they were phenomenal experiences,” he says. “But having a yacht is ten times better.”

Having just spent two weeks touring Mallorca, Ibiza, Alicante, Puerto Banus and the South of France with his son Alfie Best Jr. he’s discovered what many before him have come to love about yachting. “It allowed us the time together to talk about things that we wouldn't normally talk about,” he explains. “The times when we used to go home and have family dinners seem to be non-existent now – and that's what yachting does for you.”

Of course, he admits, there was the joy of waking up each morning in a peaceful and remote cove, watching the yacht getting set up against a backdrop of an incredible restaurant or a scenic mountain top – but it was the quality time together he found most rewarding, and the sense of freedom.

With its many admirers in port, Wyldecrest wasn’t a bad PR tool for Best either. “I think the name is very fitting, because it’s Wylde as in wild, and crest as in wave of the sea,” he says. “But actually it means something completely different - it’s the name of our company – so it’s great marketing for us too.”

Credit: Holly Overton

Best’s primary business, Wyldecrest Parks, is a series of static home developments across the UK. He currently owns in excess of 100 parks, accommodating 16,000 UK residents (largely retired or semi-retired), with 109 due by the end of this year and further developments planned in America too.

The business is an ever-growing success, earning him the Signature Entrepreneur of the Year award and NSMA Business and Financial Influencer of the year back in 2021. With Wyldecrest the yacht, however, Best believes he’s “going to score big” on the charter market, seeing her as a test case before expanding his fleet with similar vessels.

Wyldecrest is managed for charter by West Nautical

“We really have gone the extra mile with this,” he says of the boat. “I’ve set it up with brand new jet skis, brand new Seabobs. a water jet pack, an inflatable pool… And I did that because, on a yacht of this size, I wanted to create a superyacht at an affordable level,” he explains. With a beam of  7.16m, and a fully-extendable beach club that folds out using electric motors, Best says that when Wyldecrest is anchored, “you cannot tell the difference between her and a 165 footer.”

"In Marbella we were next to a 135 footer, and we looked like we were the bigger boat,” he says with amazement. “What we’ve tried to do is create a yacht with everything you’d 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, believes charterers will be quick to spot the value in his offering. “Paying €80,000 a week instead of €125,000 to get the same facilities?” he says. “That’s a massive saving. We’ve already got six weeks of charter bookings which I think is phenomenal, considering you’re starting with something fresh, and we’re looking to grow this model, 100%.”

Despite this, however, he says he’d sell Wyldecrest now for the right offer. “I come from a background that’s a little bit superstitious,” he says. “So, everything is for sale. The reason being, I believe we're here to maintain things, and pass them on to everybody else 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’s my idol – he’s 77 years old and still works seven days a week, doing manual jobs.”

Best had “periodic schooling” and worked with his father up until the age of 14, doing odd jobs by going door-to-door. A career in static homes was a natural fit for him, he says, “because I have a real passion for this business – and I know better than most how a caravan works. Caravans are in my blood.”

There’s no doubt that Best has inherited his father’s work ethic, working 16-17 hours each day and often staying the night in various parks to put the facilities to the test, despite owning his own home in Knightsbridge, London. He puts his success down to “a certain amount of luck,” but also “hard work – just sheer grit – blood, blisters and tears.”

With the static homes costing around 50% less than the traditional bricks and mortar alternative, not to mention savings on council tax and utilities, Best sees the parks not only as a lucrative business but also a real solution to Britain’s current affordable housing crisis. The company has taken 35 years to build to the level it operates at currently. “It wasn’t an overnight success,” he admits, “but if I look back to [a moment in my life] then and think of today, the difference is massive - it’s worlds apart.”

Read More/Sunseeker 90 Ocean: On board Sunseeker's flexible new yacht

It wasn’t all plain sailing, either. In the recession of 1990, Best was “virtually bankrupt,” recently divorced and living on the mattress in the back of a Ford Escort van, “scrimping and saving” to keep up with the mortgages on his various properties. It’s a period of time, he says, that still gives him the chills.

“I had a house that was worth £550,000 that I’d bought, I had a mortgage on it for £250,000, and it collapsed to a price of £200,000 – so I owed the bank more than the property was worth,” he explains. “I also had a block of five or six flats that were worth £400,000, I had a mortgage of £225,000 on them, and they dropped to a value of £175,000…the thing that saved me – and I didn’t realize it saved me at the time – was the negative equity, because it wasn’t worth the bank repossessing them, as long as I paid the mortgages.”

He sees another recession on the horizon, and is looking for business opportunities – such as his charter of Wyldecrest – to suit the changing mood. “People will make corrections”, he foresees, “and all of a sudden, if they feel they can get virtually the same value for a little bit less…” he tails off.

Part of the success of Wyldecrest Parks, he explains, and something he’s sure to carry into his other businesses, is his ability to read people and hire strong staff. “Never ask anybody to trust you,” is his best business advice, “because if you ask people to trust you, they will accept everything that you say is right, and they won’t check. I have a fantastic team around me because they check - and when people do this for me, I seem to make fewer mistakes,” he says.

Wyldecrest Parks doesn't market itself solely to the Romany community (in fact, 99% of buyers are from outside), and Best is clearly frustrated and upset at the stigma that comes with the label. “You’re not going to openly state that you're a gypsy when you're in business, because it comes with that stereotype,” he says. “I believe it’s 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’s keen to support his children, Alfie and Elizabeth, but is wary of the pitfalls that wealth brings. “They’d say I’m hard, they’d say I’m difficult,” he says. “Do I give them any help? Of course I do, I try to give them good advice, and if they need loans to set up businesses, I’m happy to do that, but the money must be repaid. The thing is, bringing up children isn’t easy, there’s no guide to it. I personally think the best thing that my dad ever did for me is – which I try to do for my children – is to be the advice they need, to lead by example.”

As his business expands abroad – and yachts in other ports beckon – a move away from Britain could be on the horizon, he says. Best is disenchanted with the current political leadership. “Do I think it was the right thing to come out of Europe? No, not really,” he says. “But once the vote had been made, once our country had decided it and our people had voted on it, let’s get on with it… But they didn’t,” he says of today’s politicians.

“I would love to stay in the UK, but this country makes it so difficult for successful people to do that,” he goes on. “What they do is reward people who come in, but they chase the wealth out. I have options all over the world to move and I will. I will either go to Monaco or Dubai, or somewhere that’s more tax efficient for me as a person.”

When not working, Best boxes, 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, my fun is what I’m doing, and I’m frightened not to do it,” he goes on. “I’m frightened not to do it, because I don’t ever want to go back to sleeping in the back of a van.”

Wyldecrest is managed for charter by West Nautical.