Former Newcastle United owner Freddy Shepherd has sold the historic La Sagesse school in a deal worth around £10m, it emerged last night.
The controversial site in Jesmond, Newcastle, was due to undergo a multi-million-pound facelift as part of plans for a luxury housing complex.
But the Tyneside tycoon is thought to have nearly doubled his investment in the former private school, four years after paying more than £5.5m to take control of the site. During his four-year tenure he also ploughed cash into a successful planning bid.
Now, in a joint purchase, David Wilson Homes – part of the Barratt Group – has bought the school and grounds which first opened in 1912.
Personal injuries solicitor Jeff Winn – founder of Winn Solicitors, in Byker – has purchased Jesmond Towers, which was the former home of Tyneside shipbuilder Charles Mitchell. The 47-year-old, originally from Morpeth, Northumberland, but now living in Jesmond, is believed to have become the first personal injuries solicitor in history to take home a pay packet of more than £10m.
Mr Shepherd, who owns energy company Shepherd Offshore, last night refused to disclose details of the deal, but in a statement said: “This was the best way to move forward for the site and for the future benefit of La Sagesse. It is an important asset for the region and we’re pleased it will be developed appropriately and for the benefit of the community.”
Mr Shepherd bought the £3,000-a-term Roman Catholic private school in 2009, just six months after it shut down due to cash problems and falling pupil numbers.
Following a three-year planning battle, his plans for luxury homes were approved earlier this year.
A spokesman for David Wilson confirmed they will be pressing ahead with £20m plans for 48 homes and apartments on the site. A spokesman for David Wilson Homes North East said: “There will be a mix of new build houses and homes converted from existing properties. The scheme has detailed planning permission and we intend to start work on site this autumn. The project will support around 100 jobs in construction and the supply chain. The £20m development will recycle a disused brownfield site, which has stood vacant for some years, into a new community in this sought-after residential area and deliver a range of benefits.”