Cugó Gran is one of the finest examples of a restored farmhouse in Menorca. And it is the brainchild of Sven von der Heyden, a German national who has had deep-rooted connections with the island for many years.
We met in the dining room at Cugó and discussed his journey to arrive at such a stunning property.
From owning a small boat and holidaying here in Menorca, he progressed to owning a property in Cala Llonga and living here. And until very recently he commuted across Europe from Menorca to conduct his many business interests.
He was trained as an investment banker and institutional bond dealer with a private bank in Germany, which later led in 1989 to becoming the wealth manager of his first clients. This led him to not just advise clients but work as an entrepreneur himself, and so he started his own property development company very soon after. The company quickly targeted the Eastern European countries in the early 90s, along with refurbishing tenement houses in the new German federal states, at the time when the West was providing beneficial tax breaks for those investing in East Germany.
This business has thrived and he has property projects running in Dresden, Leipzig, Berlin in Germany and Warsaw and Poznan in Poland. In the early years of this century he started to invest into IBB Hotel Collection, in which he now owns the majority.
He continues to have both personal and business interests in Menorca. His two children completed their junior school education here, and he became the President of the local Housing Association in Cala Llonga. His energy and enthusiasm galvanised most of the residents there and he was able to make great improvements to the public spaces. And he still has his property there.
But it is Cugó that has been his long-term love affair. He purchased the property in 2001, and it was only in 2016 when the doors were first opened for business.
‘I bought the property on a slight whim, and spent the first years of owning it wondering what to do with the building and the 250 acres that comes with it. Convert it into a private villa or make it available for luxury rental? I have now invested over 9 million euros in the property, and I am proud of what has been achieved, especially to have protected and restored such a wonderful property that is part of the heritage of the island.’
The business broke even in 2016, its first trading year, which he thinks ‘isn’t too bad’. He continues: ‘But the issue is that July and August provide around 70% of the total revenue. So, it is too seasonal, and this applies to Cugó as with the rest of the island. We have generated very good media coverage since we opened; we just need to work harder and be more focussed on bringing business in during the shoulder periods, just like everyone else in Menorca.’
He retains some other business interests here – he owns a hotel in Cala´n Porter and has a small investment in Nautic Lounge Menorca, a fleet of fun motor crafts that tourists can hire and take out into Mahón harbour and enjoy an on-board BBQ. Always an eye for an opportunity!
‘I have my base now in Malta, and we conduct our business from there. The Public Sector has a very positive attitude to business, and they have managed to attract some large brands to invest on their island, create jobs and add to the economy. It is an interesting example of what can be achieved with a can-do mentality, which I had hoped so badly to find in Menorca.’
Typical business day: I don’t have one. I am not really tied to a desk, but am always on the move. I have clocked up over 4,500 flights during my career and keep on having some 100 flights every year.
His two children from his first marriage are at university in London. They love it here and frequently visit.
I love snow skiing, especially in Lech in Austria, enjoy boating and playing golf. I am an avid newspaper reader, and subscribe and consume before breakfast the FT, El Mundo, Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Times of Malta so I can keep abreast of what’s happening in Europe and the world.
Work and play often blend together: wherever I go I run in my mind a potential business plan on a given hotel I stay in. Some may think this is weird, but my job is my passion.