The Office Group

Year founded 2003
HQ Location London
Sector Real Estate
Staff count 270
Turnover (2016) £76.4m
A committed co-founder partnership fostered The Office Group’s reputation and track record, opening the doors to key investors and powering its meteoric growth in the London office market.
www.theofficegroup.co.uk
SIr Lloyd Dorfman was a catalyst for today’s success because he pointed us in the right direction.

Olly Olsen

Co-founder & Co-CEO

Building a UK property empire

Co-founders and co-CEOs Olly Olsen and Charlie Green made their first real estate investments as The Office Group (TOG) in 2003. Close to Angel Islington in London, one of them included a 5,000 square feet property. It eventually became dwarfed by other office buildings in their portfolio – some are 20 times larger today.

Though focused on growing their property portfolio, Olsen says Green wanted to hold on to the Angel property for “sentimental reasons”. The building’s limited size restricted non-tenant functionality such as meeting-room access. So embracing their scale-up focus, they sold it.

From the start, they’ve championed supply in the fast-evolving shared workplace market to home London’s fast-expanding start-up and scale-up communities. Aware of their tenants’ demand for fair-priced, good-quality and flexible office stock, they’ve delivered what the market wants, says Olsen.

Initially adopting a freehold-property model, Olsen says that their “buildings have a lower cost of occupation and so we could charge our clients less”. Its model generated the rental income and capital appreciation that they’ve used to fund growth.


Offering value-added real estate

Their value-added focus has always integrated sustainable credentials like garden spaces, bike parks, recycled materials and water management systems. And supporting local communities through employment opportunities, says Olsen.

Sustainability in real estate was a nascent theme when they set up TOG. So their forward-looking strategy soon cemented their reputation, opening doors to innovative capital partners.

Mission-driven venture capital investor Bridges Community Ventures backed the company in 2003 thanks to TOG’s demonstrable green and social credentials.

“We really cared about the way we were operating and running our buildings,” says Olsen, “which fitted in with Bridges’ approach.”


Attracting more capital and know-how

When the co-CEOs courted investment again in 2010, it was clear that investors were just as interested in their reputation and human capital as their real estate assets, he says.

Following a deal with investor Sir Lloyd Dorfman – the Travelex Group founder – the real estate company was reaching new heights.

“Sir Lloyd Dorfman was a catalyst for today’s success because he pointed us in the right direction,” says Olsen. “He invested money, enabled us to flourish, and connected us with business leaders across the UK.”

The partnership years with Sir Lloyd Dorfman created “a platform and business with experience that enabled us to do the deal with Blackstone”, says Olsen. The June 2017 Blackstone acquisition of TOG valued the business at £500m.

Quality businesses tend to succeed. With a good track record, the right reputation and impressive performance, he says, companies can access debt and equity capital.

The day that we are not joint CEOs is the day the business takes a different direction.

Olly Olsen, The Office Group

Remaining committed co-CEOs

If they’d built a business slowly with leasehold properties then they could have taken a different scale-up route of retaining more equity ownership of the business, says Olsen. “But Charlie and I were not focused on percentage shareholding,” he explains.

The committed co-CEO model continues, even if their equity holdings have been diluted. “Charlie and I always intend to be joint-CEOs,” says Olsen. “But the day that we are not joint-CEOs is the day the business takes a different direction.”


Key Metrics

44

Number of properties

15,000

Number of tenants

(members)

60%

Turnover growth

(2015 to 2016)

Sources of capital
Supported By

Related Stories

busuu
Founder and CEO Bernhard Niesner says that having the wrong culture created a “near-death experience” for busuu, but a concerted turnaround has put the mobile language-learning platform at the top of its class for the past few years. Read more...
Re:signal
When Expedia needed to boost site traffic, the company turned to search engine optimisation (SEO) and content agency Re:signal and achieved instant results, thanks to the agency’s focus on investing in top talent. Read more...
Calcivis
Founder Adam Christie credits early hiring of top talent and funding from Scotland’s Archangels as key to his scale-up success, helping Calcivis to revolutionise dentistry with its novel tool that diagnoses active tooth decay. Read more...
Smarkets
With minimum external investment, online betting exchange Smarkets disrupted the industry by building its own proprietary platform to become one of Europe’s fastest-growing companies. Read more...
Zappi
With revenues close to £20m in 2017, founder and CEO Steven Phillips says he’s determined that cashflow will never slow Zappi’s global scale-up ambitions. Read more...
LendInvest
LendInvest has secured a strong position in the UK property finance market after raising £760m of lending capital, and is taking on the established bank market with its technology-driven model and its increasingly diverse and cost-effective capital base. Read more...