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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 24, 2003 14 years ago

Ahead of the Wave

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Transplanted British developer Derick Coles sees rising British investment and immigration coming to Florida. His New Horizons' clients are bringing $500 million a year into Florida.

Ahead of the Wave

Transplanted British developer Derick Coles sees rising British investment and immigration coming to Florida. His New Horizons' clients are bringing $500 million a year into Florida.

By Matt Walsh

Editor

About 12 years ago, Derick Coles, then 46, brought his wife and three children together for a family vote. In a matter of months, the British developer had watched interest rates in Great Britain rise from 4% to 18% and the U.K. economy sink into yet another long, dreary, depressing recession.

Coles' residential development business (annual sales: about $25 million), once again, was riding the downside of the economic rollercoaster. After 20 years as a developer in southern England, he and his wife were ready for a life-changing event. So he polled the family: How many would be in favor of leaving the United Kingdom, their families and friends and starting a new life in the United States?

It was unanimous: the United States.

Next question: Where to land - Florida or California, two states where they had previously vacationed? Choice: Florida (it was only seven hours from Great Britain by air). More specifically, after a 10-day search, they chose Sarasota. "Heaven on earth," says Coles.

So began a new adventure for Coles, a developer-entrepreneur whose friends cite him as an atypical Brit. Unusual for his optimistic outlook, upbeat disposition and British properism. "I like his spirit," says Philip Bucknell, another transplanted Brit who has known Coles for four years and is now a partner with him. "One of the reasons we decided to leave England," Bucknell says, "we found people weren't very positive there. Derick was unusual in that respect. He has vision. He's ambitious. He tries to do things in a proper way. He has a sense of quality in the way things should be done."

And upon those qualities, Coles has built a business whose moniker fits with Coles' outlook on business and life - New Horizons LLC. After trying his hand in Sarasota real estate development and brokering and investing in a sportswear manufacturing company - ventures that cost him more than $500,000 in losses and lawsuits - Coles in the past five years has created and built an $18 million (annual sales) one-stop, international immigration and investment company with offices in Great Britain, Orlando, Miami, Naples and Sarasota, the headquarters. Also in the fold: a home building company, Jade Homes, headed by his eldest son.

The holding company for the group is called Select Industries U.S.A. Inc., with New Horizons LLC the firm's recently adopted brand name.

Coles likes to say New Horizons is in the business of "helping people make their dreams come true one day at a time." That's the romantic description. More to the point, New Horizons at its core does two things: 1) helps foreigners, mostly Brits, with every detail required in relocating successfully and legally into the United States; 2) matches British investors and business executives with American business opportunities. Coles figures through his company's services New Horizons' clients bring into Florida $500 million a year in new investment capital and assets.

How Coles assembled New Horizons is much the way his friend and partner Bucknell describes Coles' easy-going style. "He tries things, and if it doesn't work, he says, 'That was that. Let's get on and do something else.' "

New in the states, Coles bought a vacant property at the corner of Fruitville and Lockwood Ridge roads in Sarasota with the idea of assembling several more parcels and building affordable town homes. He scrapped that plan when a buyer offered him an attractive price for the land - and after learning that building affordable homes in Sarasota was more difficult than he expected. Then a friend led him to a Tad Murray, president of Palmer Realty, the brokerage arm of Palmer Ranch Holdings Inc. The realty brokerage was for sale, and Murray was in a hurry to buy it. "Tad was concerned if word spread that it was on the market, the price would go up."

Coles was then introduced to two more investors, also Brits, who wanted to join the deal - much to his regret. In hindsight, Coles now says, "I knew at the time we were rushing, and I didn't like it. But I went along with it."

Not even a year after the purchase, from 1995 to 1998, Coles was embroiled in a costly shareholder dispute that started when the two British investors wrested control of Palmer Realty, later renamed Sarasota Realty, at a board meeting while Coles was out of town. After that meeting, the two investors fired Murray and in the process kept Murray's share certificates.

While Coles fought in court to regain control of the realty firm, he continued to travel back to Great Britain a half-dozen times a year to check on holdings he hadn't liquidated and help friends and business acquaintances who wanted to invest in the states or move altogether.

Then Coles became the lead investor in a Venice firm that manufactured sportswear under the Team USA brand. And like the Palmer deal, Coles trustingly left his partner to run the company. It went broke. Asked how long he owned the firm, Coles jokes: "Long enough to get gray hair."

Coles took on a new attitude toward partners. He started a home building company with his son. Over this four-year period, too, while Coles maintained many of his British connections, he found himself helping fellow Brits get through the immigration process, referring them to banks, accountants, doctors, lawyers, Realtors and helping them make investments in U.S. business ventures. And that's when this idea that had been ticking in his head began to take form.

Coles incorporated Visa Services Inc. and associated with a former Chicago lawyer, Frederick De Pasquale, who specializes in immigration law. Coles and De Pasquale focused exclusively on helping well-off Brits - investors, entrepreneurs, business owners and executives who require visas to live and work in the United States. Once they led the clients through the immigration process, Coles and De Pasquale also helped them buy and set up businesses, purchase a home and generally guide them through the maze of details to become acclimated to living and doing business in the United States.

It was a hit, and it was gaining momentum. Still is. Coles sees and predicts increasing numbers of British investors, business owners and entrepreneurs wanting to leave England for the states. "It's still the land of opportunity," he says of the United States. What's more, living and doing business in, say, London is becoming increasingly difficult and costly, which also contributes to the outflow of investors and their capital.

Given the trends, Coles over the past five years has been building an infrastructure of services for foreign newcomers. Even though he eventually sold Sarasota Realty, he bought another real estate brokerage in Winter Park, an Orlando hub for British immigrants. With that, New Horizons LLC has New Horizons Realty Group Inc., which operates, in addition to standard brokerage services, a mortgage brokerage, title services and property management. New Horizons also has feeder relationships in the vacation home rental business with one of the major players in that market, ResortQuest International. And then there's New Horizons business brokering and New Horizons Relocation Services Inc. Just imagine everything you do when you move to a new home - that's what New Horizons does for its immigrant clients. "They want someone here who can hold their hands," Coles says.

To drum up sales, Coles spends much of his time on road shows - at travel expositions in Great Britain and visiting bankers and investment firms there. He sees his job as much about promoting Florida as promoting New Horizons' services. Toward that end, Coles has launched New Horizons Florida magazine, a bi-monthly, coated-stock publication that, predictably, paints a glossy picture of Florida. W.H. Smith, a book merchant, has agreed to carry the magazine throughout its U.K. stores. And on Nov. 4, New Horizons will be the lead sponsor and organizer of its International Business Forum, a one-day conference designed to promote increased investment and business between Great Britain and Florida (see page 13).

Coles is feeling good these days about the evolution of New Horizons. "Everything now is in a nice little package," he says. "We really know where we're going."

On the expansion list: California and Arizona, but not for at least a year. Coles wants to penetrate the Latin American immigrant market coming into Miami. Still, Coles' greatest interests are in his roots. "I love the U.K.," he says, "and I love the U.S."

Global Gathering

His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent of the British Royal Family; international investment angels and venture capitalists; a charity reception to benefit children; the unveiling of plans for the manufacture of a new British luxury car, possibly to be made in Sarasota; and the opportunity to network with international capitalists.

All of this will be featured Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 3 and 4, at the Transatlantic Business Forum at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Geared for executives, entrepreneurs and investors, the event is being presented by Sarasota-based New Horizons Florida LLC. Cost: $75 to attend the forum only and $100 to attend the forum and charity reception, both of which will feature Prince Michael of Kent and U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris.

New Horizons founder Derick Coles, a British developer who moved 11 years ago to Sarasota with his family, has been working the past two and a half months organizing the events, ever since a British friend asked Coles if he'd like to meet the prince. Coles decided to coincide the prince's visit with one of Coles' passions - increasing and promoting global trade between the Brits and Yanks, particularly the Yanks on the West Coast of Florida.

Coles, whose firm specializes in international business and relocation services, hopes the forum will become a twice-a-year event in the states and twice-a-year event in Great Britain. The idea already worked well once in Great Britain. Coles conducted a similar trade forum in June at the U.S. Embassy in London. "It was so oversubscribed with people," Coles says, "it told us there was a huge demand for information on the United States. They want to find out where the opportunities are."

Coles recruited more than 20 speakers and presenters - half British, half American - who will address how business is conducted on both sides of the ocean. Confirmed attendees also will include senior business executives from New York City, Charlotte, San Francisco, Russia, Nigeria and Ecuador.

And although the Nov. 4 forum has structured sessions, Coles says the event will be arranged to encourage networking in hallways. "We don't want you to think you have to sit through speeches all day," Coles says. "We want people to move about and get to know one another."

Adding stature to the event will be the presence of Prince Michael of Kent and the unveiling of Project Zircon, a new luxury car that may set up manufacturing and its U.S. office in Sarasota. Prince Michael, who at the time of his birth was eighth in line to the throne, will be on a cross-country U.S. trip. A car enthusiast and former Olympic bobsledder, Prince Michael is an entrepreneur and businessman in his own right. Unlike other Royals, Prince Michael does not receive any form of stipend from the Royal Privy Purse and therefore operates a consulting firm that deals construction, telecommunications, insurance, finance, tourism, medicine, aviation and the automotive industries.

TRANSATLANTIC BUSINESS FORUM SCHEDULE

Royal Charity Reception

5-7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 3, Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota

Featuring Prince Michael of Kent; to benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota; Children First; Florida Center for Child & Family Development.

Business Forum

Tuesday, Nov. 4, Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota

8 a.m. Registration

8:30 Continental breakfast

9 a.m. Opening

9:45 a.m. Recent developments in North American economies; cross border mergers, acquisitions and alliances.

10:15 a.m. Understand the dynamics of the global marketplace

11 a.m. Global business benefits, challenges (moving currency, sales force organization, aligning organizational structures)

11:45 a.m. Capital markets (costs-benefits of U.S. debt offerings and private placements; disclosure issues; foreign ownership restrictions; comparing U.S. and EU securities markets; strategies for accessing foreign capital markets; risk management)

12:15 p.m. Lunch

1 p.m. Seeding and developing new industries (establishing partnerships/relationships with venture capital firms; development and regulation of venture capital funds)

1:30 p.m. European entrepreneurial projects (Project Zircon, the Romanoff Project)

2:30 p.m. Break

2:45 p.m. Entrepreneurial success (creating entrepreneurial opportunities, successful ventures; managing entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ventures within your firm)

3:15 p.m. Global corporate leaders - the next generation

4 p.m. Conclusion

Speakers

× Prince Michael of Kent

× Congresswoman Katherine Harris

× Derick Coles, CEO, New Horizons Florida

× Charles Cardona, chairman/CEO, Adzone Research, St. Petersburg

× John W. Fleming, regional manager, Latin America, St. James International, Brazil

× Matthew Spence, CEO, HCB Foreign Exchange, London

× Paul Onwaunbe, CEO, Landmark Ltd., London

× Stewart Morris Sr., chairman, Stewart Title, Houston

× Philip Cooper, managing director, Venture Wales, Cardiff, Wales

× William Brooks, Brandenburg Securities Ltd., London

× Stanley U. North III, partner, Sills Cummis Capital Markets, Newark, N.J.

× George O'Brien, vice president/investment trust specialist, Legg Mason Wood, Sarasota

× Micah Eldred, Spartan Securities, St. Petersburg

× Godfrey Ainsworth, chairman, Gambit Financial Corp., Cardiff, Wales

× John Richards, chairman, Relf-Richards Ltd., Gawsorth, United Kingdom

× Steve Coppen, managing partner, IMP Ltd., London

× Valentin Egorov, producer, IMP Ltd., St. Petersburg, Russia

× Simon Ward, CEO, Molecular Skincare Ltd., Sheffield, United Kingdom

× Brenda Young, president, Shirtsleeve Solutions, Tampa

× Geary Havran, president NDH Medical Inc., Tampa

× Louis A. Martin-Vega, Ph.D., dean, University of South Florida, College of Engineering

× Timothy Wheeler, principal, University College, Chester, United Kingdom

To Register: Reservations can be made by going online to www.newhorizonsevents.com; cost: $100 for reception and forum only; $75 for forum only. For information, call Jeannie Kelly, (941)552-3542.

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