British-Iranian property tycoon aims to slash global carbon emissions

"We want to promote healthcare and climate change. Ten percent of US greenhouse emissions are caused by hospitals and pharma. It is a sector all by itself," said Vincent Tchenquiz.

Vincent Tchenquiz  (photo credit: ROHIT GAUTAM)
Vincent Tchenquiz
(photo credit: ROHIT GAUTAM)
Born in Tehran to an Iraqi-Jewish family in 1956, financial matters were always the dominant topic of conversation in the childhood home of property tycoon Vincent Tchenquiz.
His late father, Victor, was tasked with minting gold coins in Iran and worked closely with the Shah and the Iranian royal family. When the monarch was deposed during the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Tchenquiz’s family fled to London.
Known for his lavish lifestyle but surprisingly soft-spoken manner, Tchenquiz made his fortune in British real estate with his brother, Robert, after gaining experience in trading on Wall Street and holding senior roles at brokerage company Prudential-Bache and investment banking firm Shearson Lehman Brothers.
Tchenquiz’s Consensus Business Group, located in the affluent London district of Mayfair, boasts a portfolio exceeding 300,000 residential freeholds worth over £4 billion ($5.2b.) and a commercial portfolio valued at more than £2b. ($2.6b.). The company’s assets amount to over 1% of the housing stock in the United Kingdom.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post at his spacious Tel Aviv apartment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Tchenquiz showcases his diverse and international investment portfolio with a complex series of platforms, flowcharts and diagrams.
Far from offering long-term rental properties, his business philosophy has led to wide-ranging investments worldwide in pharma, medical devices, cleantech, sustainability, defense, infrastructure and solar power.
Through his company, Tchenguiz has invested approximately $400m. in a growing portfolio of Israeli technologies, primarily focused on healthtech, cleantech, agritech and carbon tech solutions.
The company recently backed a series of government-franchised incubators located in the country, Trendlines Medical and Trendlines Agtech, as well as Capital Nature and Jerusalem’s VLX Ventures. Local operations are led by Merav Kaye, head of business development at Consensus Business Group Israel.
For the past two decades, he has been working on matching offsets resulting from major military sales transactions with reducing carbon emissions. Such offsets refer to compensation practices or economic inducements often included in government-to-government or commercial sales of defense products.
“Those types of things, being involved in complicated programs, seemed interesting,” said Tchenguiz. “I built a platform which seeks to take these offset obligations and turn them into reducing carbon emissions and climate change.”
Seeking to serve as the “balance sheet for the defense industry” and their non-core business activity of offsetting, Tchenguiz has created and invested substantial sums in promoting a sustainable energy future for Africa, co-investing with institutions including the International Finance Corporation (IFC), African Development Bank, European Investment Bank and the governments of Finland and Norway.
Consensus has invested in two funds managed by Inspired Evolution. The first $100m. fund, conceived by Tchenquiz, focused on growing a commercially viable and sustainable environmental goods and services sector in Africa. The latest Evolution II fund, which closed $250m. in commitments, will invest in infrastructure across southern, eastern and western Africa. Planned projects include a wind farm in Kenya and an urban cooling solution in Mauritius.
“Our first business model – the $100m. fund – was based on governmental sponsors, and I had offset credits as well. I was about to sell that to a contractor when the World Bank said they wouldn’t do the deal because they didn’t want to be connected to the offset program, they wouldn’t engage with the military,” said Tchenquiz.
“I said they would probably change their mind in due course as they are missing a trick. They didn’t understand that we should mix the defense technologies and advancing climate change. We killed the offset but ultimately did the deal with the World Bank.”
In addition to military offsets, Tchenquiz ultimately seeks to build a thriving network that embraces his broad portfolio of technology investments, incubators and platforms, and the world’s largest companies to create a cleaner future.
“We’re effectively looking at different sectors and building a large platform – we can work with pharma and climate change, oil and gas and climate change, shipping and transportation and climate change,” said Tchenquiz, emphasizing the importance of Fortune 500 firms embracing such technologies and scaling them globally.
“We want to promote healthcare and climate change. Ten percent of US greenhouse emissions are caused by hospitals and pharma. It is a sector all by itself.”
Whether initially targeting the healthcare or defense industries, Tchenguiz says technologies developed by many innovative start-ups can be reapplied to reduce carbon emissions. Such an approach is particularly relevant for Israeli start-ups, he says.
“It goes together with the high scientific level and the technology in Israel. It’s a small community, so it’s easier to do. The Trendlines incubator is an interesting one that we’re working on just now – how to turn companies from thinking about agriculture to CO2, and maybe change the nature of their customers from dealing with farmers to dealing with the Fortune 500,” said Tchenquiz.
He cites one Israeli portfolio company in particular, Nasdaq-listed microbiome therapeutics firm BiomX, which has traditionally focused on drug development for humans. The same intellectual property has recently been spun to form a new company working with Trendlines to apply its technology to enhancing plant health.
“What we’re looking at is how to bridge the gap between the innovation and the requirement of the corporates and countries. A lot of the innovation can pivot their technologies into climate change. We’re seeing that a lot, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence.”