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© Copyright Ashley Knowles 2015 | all rights reserved


Case Studies

Gemini Commercial Investments and Broadgate West


I first worked with Gemini in 1993, when chairman and owner Peter Marano (previously the leasing director at Canary Wharf) established the company as a vehicle for property consultancy and development. Peter has an exceptional talent for finding ways of adding value, and the business has developed over 1 million sq ft of office space and created over £700 million in value.


I have been responsible for all financial analysis within the company, including development & investment appraisals, valuations, market and leasing analysis, project financing & refinancing and supporting the buyer’s due diligence on sale of assets.


I created budget reporting systems for each of Gemini’s developments, linked to the nominal ledgers of the relevant companies so that budget reports match formal financial statements. The company has been rewarded with a consistently high degree of trust from its partners and banks.


Each of these development projects has produced a number of high value transactions. The redevelopment of 33 Holborn began by demonstrating that, through savings in occupancy costs, the tenant could buy the freehold for virtually zero cost. Gemini redeveloped the site, pre-let it, negotiated the sale of the freehold, re-leased it and negotiated a further sale of the freehold at a substantial profit. In addition to furthering the interests of its clients at each stage, I added significantly to the benefit that Gemini received by re-analysing its fee agreement.


This led to the Broadgate West development, where I was involved in every stage from comparing the economic benefits of alternative building designs & leases, analysing land values & Section 106 contributions & producing valuations to maximise the benefits of refinancing. The development partnership was restructured several times, and I’ve helped Peter to protect the value of his interest by showing how the distribution of returns to the partners could vary dramatically, depending on the timing of asset sales and refinancing events, for certain profit-sharing structures.


I acted as interim head of finance during a period of transition in focus from development to management & investment, producing management and statutory accounts for the Broadgate West group of companies and three other main active companies reporting in US GAAP and in the UK, and I selected and implemented a property management system.


At other times, I’ve analysed proposals for office and residential investments in the UK and across Europe. More recently, I’ve supported the sale of the development and helped Peter through a contentious divorce in which his ownership of the project was at stake, tracking and explaining 15 years of investment cashflow through several companies and re-examining valuations.

Olympia & York

Canary Wharf


Beginning by creating the original budget model that was used by the company throughout its ownership of the development, I became the lead financial analyst for the £4 billion project and remained with the company until its insolvency in the downturn of the early 1990s.


During this time, I was responsible for appraising many proposals for new development projects, comparing office and retail leasing proposals and evaluating tax-based finance leases and a variety of refinancing proposals. During the company’s negotiations with the government over its contribution to the Jubilee Line extension, I provided analyses that satisfied the government’s need to show a large headline contribution, while the cost to O&Y in real terms was significantly lower.


I supported the work of a team of analysts by creating and maintaining appraisal models, including a lease appraisal model that was used in over 400 proposals.


At the end of the company’s involvement in the project, I analysed many proposals for debt reduction and restructuring and created crisis packs of financial information. In the end, the banks effectively adopted O&Y’s plans, but without the family’s involvement.


At other times, I supported the finance and leasing directors with ad-hoc analyses, created graphical presentations of marketing & financial topics and resolved issues such as a series of puzzling results from a study of travel times, which appeared to suggest that the journey from central London to Canary Wharf was always quicker if the hour of the day was even rather than odd, and which I found had been due to the way that teams of drivers had been allocated run times: it seems that the team with the even hours had been more competitive.

Case Studies in Service Sectors

Smoke & Mirrors Productions


Smoke & Mirrors Productions was founded by a group of leading special effects designers & compositors and immediately became one of Soho’s industry-leading video and film editing and effects companies. I worked with the group to convert their ideas into a full business plan, created financial projections and wrote the business plan document, combining my analysis with personal statements from each of the founders to create a unified presentation.


I negotiated a corporate loan facility, factoring and leasing arrangements, and stayed with the company to provide interim financial management during its first year of operation. During this time, the company exceeded growth targets and after twelve months was earning seven-figure profits and starting to repay its start-up finance.

Operational Modelling

Case Studies

L’Anima Restaurant Group


The original L’Anima restaurant opened in London in 2008 to enthusiastic reviews under executive chef Francesco Mazzei. I created operating projections for the venue and a budget system to monitor the costs of the luxurious fitout.


In 2014, the group opened its second venue, L’Anima Café, again using an operating model designed to allow the managing director to see the effect of pricing decisions and assumptions about customer numbers and sales patterns on staffing needs, profitability and cashflow. The new venue established a mix of café, bar and informal deli eating with an exciting open kitchen.


The group is now evaluating possible locations in which to develop the brand further.

Amsterdam Stock Exchange


In the very early days of electronic trading and information systems, I created a simulation of trading patterns to investigate the effects of improving the flow of market data.


At the time, it was widely assumed that more timely information must mean more efficient and therefore better-behaved markets, but my work predicted that better information and faster trading would lead to increased price volatility. As the use of programmed trading has developed over subsequent years, this has been shown to be the case.

British Telecom


At the time when the London network was being split into the 0207 and 0208 zones, I produced a detailed routing model of the London telephone network, which enabled the organisation to calculate unit costs for calls between any pair of locations within the capital and highlighted the effects of legacy technology and local constraints.


Also for BT, I investigated the accuracy of their system for predicting and reconciling call revenues from traffic data, which formed a central part of their monthly management reports, and produced a simple statistical model that the company’s operational managers and accountants could use to explain and reduce random variations.

Commission of the European Communities


I created a model of telecommunications costs within Europe, which enabled the CEC’s economists to demonstrate the value of cooperation within the community and to quantify the cost of inequalities between regions due to distance from the centre of Europe and technological advances. The strongest correlation in the data was between high national GDP per head and low telecoms costs (generally also reflecting geographical position), except for Germany, which had chosen to invest in relatively expensive infrastructure.

Ashley Knowles

Financial Analysis and Board Support