The Sunday Times

Jungle calls fill tycoon’s London rooftop garden
by Sharon Feinstein
THE millionaire owner of Alton Towers is creating his own horticultural theme park — a rooftop garden on his penthouse apartment overlooking London Zoo.

While Nick Leslau’s new garden, which offers views across the capital and the sounds of the nearby exotic animals, will not include an Alton Towers-style log flume, one plan is to install a spa bath with 20 seats.

Leslau, whose property firm also owns Thorpe Park in Chertsey, Surrey, Madame Tussauds, the wax museum, and parts of the Travelodge hotel group, is spending more than £2m redeveloping the 5,000 sq ft apartment which is close to Regent’s Park. He bought it for about £15m in 2010.

It is understood that Leslau and his wife Maxine plan to spend about £500,000 to create the 2,500 sq ft garden which will also include a mobile kitchen, a pizza oven and an array of exotic trees in containers to shelter sunbathers or diners.

A friend of the couple said the intention was to create a “unique and unrivalled party space” to outdo anything at the neighbouring homes surrounding the park and nearby Primrose Hill.

As well as the views of London, animals at the zoo are visible from the roof of the seven-storey building.

Leslau, 54, who is worth about £200m according to the 2013 Sunday Times Rich List, has admitted to being a “sucker for toys”. He has a large collection of sports memorabilia, including one of WG Grace’s cricket bats, and is part-owner of Saracens rugby union club.

He grew up in Cricklewood, north London, and began his working life as an assistant to a milkman, earning 50p a round. He dropped out of a German degree at Warwick University to become a chartered surveyor before going into the property market.

In 2008 he spent 10 days working secretly as a volunteer at a disability charity in Glasgow for Secret Millionaire, the Channel 4 programme. He subsequently donated £300,000 to the charity.

Afterwards Leslau, who owns a 100ft yacht and a private jet, said: “I didn’t mind cleaning the toilets and mopping the floor. That’s something any volunteer would be asked to do.” His wife works with art colleges helping to promote talented artists from poor backgrounds.

Nick and Maxine Leslau’s garden will cost £500,000