Dubai’s man of the moment, Michael Gelpke, CEO of luxury boutique real estate company Glam Properties
High-profile agents serving high-profile clientele, here’s why Michael Gelpke, CEO Glam Properties is the man every celebrity wants to buy a house from in Dubai…
Having spent a decade in investment banking and several years running a hugely successful manufacturing firm, Michael Gelpke’s career has seen him work across the globe, including extended stints in Asia and Europe. While amassing his small fortune, Gelpke simultaneously built a high society network that even the world’s top promoters would be jealous of. Just one scan through his contact list and you’d see names from Middle Eastern royalty and global politicians to Russian oligarchs, pro-golfers and A-list celebrities.
Three years ago, Gelpke made the move to Dubai, keen to diversify some of his assets into property and quickly accumulated an extensive portfolio of some of the most luxurious real estate in the city. Now, as CEO at Glam Properties, Gelpke and his team of high-profile agents are selling these – among others – to key figureheads across the world…
Can you tell us a bit about your life and background?
It’s a pretty crazy story – I started in investment banking as a trader. I had a marvelous 10-year run and acquired incredible capital from that. But I knew that I had to start my own business to stay wealthy. Only the bosses make the big money, and I knew that. So, I teamed up with my current business partner, the remarkable – and stunning – Jennifer Urwyler, and together we launched a manufacturing company.
The first few years were brutal. We worked all hours with no holidays. After about three years it began to pay off. We turned it up a gear and now I’d say that we’re very successful, achieving an annual turnover of €120million.
After this adventure, we began to purchase real estate in Switzerland, before expanding to Dubai. That’s how Glam Properties came to be.
What prompted the move into real estate?
I saw the massive drive and appetite for this city. The government is making all the positive future steps to position Dubai as one of the best cities to live.
Geographically it’s fantastic, too. I always needed a foot between Asia and Europe. Couple that with zero taxes (at present), and I genuinely can’t think of any city that comes close to how good we have it here.
Dubai’s luxury real estate market is booming right now. Why do you think that is?
Fewer positive alternative investment strategies are driving investors to safer shores. We have seen the equities market bruised, and continued volatility in the market makes it all the more challenging. Not to mention, the exchange rate is also seeing historical depreciation, and the overall political environment remains unstable and unpredictable. This is all driving demand in Dubai. The higher the uncertainty and instability in markets, the more Dubai profits from it as it positions itself as a stable and striving market.
Is now a good time to invest?
We’ve heard Dubai’s favourite real estate word – ‘bubble’ – too many times. Why does it have to be a bubble? With so much instability in the world, why wouldn’t more people come here? For me, living here fulfills the most important parameters in living quality. The rest of the world is getting a taste of this and I’ve no doubt that more people will come and see what a great city this is.
At Glam Properties, you have a curated selection of luxury properties for sale, but you also provide a number of other services. Could you explain those to us?
Apart from real estate services, we offer the full exclusive package to our clients from concierge to consultancy. We manage our own properties as well, so we have our own ‘skin in the game,’ so to speak.
Glam Properties buys its properties first, which is highly unusual. That’s some huge capital backing you have…
Oh, absolutely. There’s huge advantages to that, too. We buy a lot of luxury villas and high-end apartments and many pre-launch. This means that we have fantastic relationships with real estate developers. We have the advantage of access, often seeing new properties before other real estate companies in Dubai.
What do you believe sets Glam Properties apart from other real estate companies in the region?
We’re boutique and small in comparison to the big fish in the market. But it’s a very tailored, luxurious service, where our clients are picked up in a Rolls Royce. We want to remain small. I promised my agents that a strong team spirit will endure and that we’d always be able to sit down altogether for dinner as opposed to becoming too impersonal where agents are just numbers.
There is no doubt that I have the finest real estate agents in the markets. These are not just young professionals who’ve flown to Dubai to make a quick buck. They’re not aggressive or willing to make a thousand calls a day. My agents are high-profile themselves, with a vast network that other real estate companies can only dream of. We’re talking the pro-golfer market, politicians and royalty. And we prioritise transparency and high moral standards. We’re good people, not cowboys, who focus on quality not quantity. While other agents fight for fish in a pond full of sharks, we focus on external markets.
Are there any particular locations or neighbourhoods in Dubai that property investors should zone in on?
Generally the greener areas are the most sought after. Projects such as Al Barari, for example. That’s a personal favourite. It encompasses a perfect, luxurious community. I’ve flipped a lot of houses there. A lot of celebrities live there from TV personalities to footballers and CEOs. We’re also very interested in Al Barari’s new development on the World Islands. They’re building Dhs70 million homes. Personally, I don’t want to be living on an island – it’s too far away from the fun in DIFC – but we’ll present these options to high profile individuals in Russia, who’ll find these villas particularly tempting.
Let’s talk work/life balance. How do you relax and unwind in Dubai?
During the week, I’m an angel. I focus on fitness and keeping up with market news and shifts. On weekends, I spend my time in DIFC. My hotspots? GAIA, Amazonico and Raspoutine to name a few. But I also love to travel, particularly to more off-the-beaten path destinations such as Vietnam or Cambodia. It helps counter balance the madness and consumerism in Dubai.
And finally, your dream home in Dubai. Where would you live?
While Al Barari is the top choice for wealthy families, for me I’m an apartment guy. What can I say, I’ve got a fetish for high ceilings. Plus, I like to be close to the action. I recently bought an Dhs11 million duplex in One Zabeel and should be moving in this January. It’s a fantastic modern apartment with a One&Only hotel and several new high-end restaurants inside. That’ll do for me for now…
For more info on Glam Properties, visit glam-properties.com