Developing a passion: Gerry Fagan, an important figure in Portugal’s tourism development for over 20 years

Leading property development companies for more than two decades, Gerry Fagan’s portfolio boasts internationally acclaimed luxury resorts and golf courses

– October 16, 2023 | Text Maria Simiris

Developing a passion: Leading property development companies for over 20 years, Gerry Fagan’s portfolio boasts internationally acclaimed luxury resorts and golf courses

The story begins in 1999, when Gerry Fagan retires from the Campbell Bewley Group, a leading tea and coffee company in Ireland, where for over 24 years he worked as financial director, CEO and president, leading a team of 30,000.

Whilst looking for a plan for his retirement, he spent an additional four years as CEO and president of the Devey Group, which specialised in renovating historic buildings and leisure and healthcare facilities.

When he was introduced to Lagos, alongside business partner Simon Burgess, he realised the potential of the western Algarve. “I just fell in love. Back then, the A22 motorway only went as far as Lagoa, but we knew it would expand, so we focused on different locations around Lagos,” he recalls.

In 2000, Gerry Fagan and Simon Burgess came together to create the Oceânico Group, which quickly became the property developer with the highest turnover and the market leader in luxury tourism developments in Portugal, hailed in 2007 as the largest golf course operator in Europe.

The project began with the Jardim da Meia Praia resort, featuring townhouses and penthouses set among subtropical gardens. But it was the Belmar Spa & Beach Resort, near Porto de Mós beach, with its 189 apartments and five pools, that brought increased visibility to the Oceânico Group.

“We decided early on that we were going to implement higher standards than those existing in the area. Our goal was always to do better, from the main infrastructure to the pools and restaurants. And that is how we started,” Gerry Fagan recalls.

Following this philosophy, the Amendoeira Golf Resort was born near Silves, comprised of 60 hectares, 241 units including apartments and villas, a clubhouse and two golf courses with 18 holes. It was a big hit. “There were always clients interested in buying because of the courses, mostly European golfers but also external buyers. That is when we entered the golf market,” says the entrepreneur.

After trips to the United States, the pair realised that more was needed to seize the market and it was then that they acquired the five illustrious golf courses in Vilamoura in 2007: Old Course, Pinhal, Laguna, Millennium and the acclaimed Victoria.

In total, the Oceânico Group invested €350 million in golf courses. “Once again, we wanted to be the best and we knew that golf services in Portugal needed an update. We burst into the industry. And the Vilamoura courses were the most profitable in the world, each course averaging 50,000 rounds annually.” says Gerry Fagan.

Along the way, and still under the Oceânico Group brand name, Estrela da Luz opened in 2005, the Azores Golf Islands in 2006, in a partnership with the SIRAM group, and Baía da Luz (also in Luz, Lagos) in 2007. Also in 2006, the Vilamoura Golf & Garden Resort was acquired, an area of 70 hectares and an investment that included 700 units. One of the company’s last projects was the Royal Óbidos Spa & Golf Resort, in partnership with MSF, consisting of 130 hectares and a “stunning” golf course, as Gerry Fagan describes.

Following the economic crisis and the demise of the group, the Irishman assembled a team of asset management experts to found and chair Decade Development Management (DDM) in 2017, with the aim of creating projects for national and international investors, while also developing sustainable operations to add value to local communities.

Over the years, DDM’s has focused on Lagos, specifically in the town of Luz. “We decided we were going to focus again on what we do best – developing in the Algarve. We looked for opportunities and discovered Reserva da Luz,” a property project he has been operating since 2001, where 43 of its 83 plots have already been built.

“It is a really interesting project. It’s turnkey, which gives buyers the great alternative to have their house customised to their liking. You cannot find something like this less than 500 metres from the ocean. So much so that we had plans to finalise sales in three years, but I believe that by the end of 2024 everything will have been sold,” says the president of DDM.

With 14 units already sold in Reserva da Luz, the Algarve property specialist says the market has changed dramatically. “Initially, 90% of our clients were English and Irish.

Now, 50% are English, 35% German and Dutch, and the rest are Portuguese. We have also seen a huge influx of Americans. In Lagos, in 2022 alone, 60% of all apartments were sold to Americans. It’s incredible. These tourists visit us and soon realise it is the ideal place to live and run their businesses. There are clients who only want to work in Spain and Portugal,” says Gerry Fagan.

Over the last four years DDM has also been working on a project in Alta de Lisboa and is called Hera Residences. With an investment of around €120 million, the development features 284 apartments with high-quality finishes, from studios to four-bedroom units, 98% of which are already sold.

Looking back on all the projects he has developed in Portugal over the last two decades, the Irishman has every reason to be proud.

“We love everything we have created so far. We have a lot going on and a lot of plans for the future,” he assures. One of them is already in the works for Lagos, a city with several vacant buildings. “The idea is to create high-end apartments that will match the quality of Reserva da Luz. This, together with other development opportunities, will be the future of project development,” Gerry Fagan reveals.

Author: Inside Magazines

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