‘I’m not sure property is still such a good investment’ TV Gladiator Hunter tells of his buy-to-let empire 

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The Best Decision Strongman James Crossley made investing in buy-to-let properties in the 1990s.

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Crosley – Hunter in the TV game show Gladiators – told Donna Ferguson that his main income comes from sensible investments he makes while beating contestants on the hit show. But now he is not interested in buying property and feels that it has become difficult to invest successfully as a buying landlord.

Every week, he teaches a ‘gong bath’ meditation – where clients relax to the sound of clocks – and does yoga at Sadhana Wellbeing in Clapham, south-west London. For more information visit sadhna-wellbeing.com.

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Hunk: James Crossley on the hit show in 1995

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What did your parents teach you about money?

To save and beware of it. My parents’ motto was: ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’ He did not encourage spontaneous spending. My father was the manager of a small bank branch and my mother was an artist. I would say we were working class. I don’t remember if he ever struggled to argue or argue about money, but he was thrifty and saved up for everything.

A lot of my clothes were in my brother’s hand and we used to go on holidays in a caravan. I knew it was not good to be a big spender and money could stop coming in at any time.

Have you ever struggled to meet your needs?

Yes, after getting a job in Gladiators. I was 19 and already quite successful as a bodybuilder. The producers saw me in a magazine, came to meet me at a bodybuilding show and asked me to audition.

At that time I was working on a printer. It was a good job, but my boss forbade me to take a month off to go to work and film Gladiators. So I decided to leave.

The series I shot took six months to air on TV. I didn’t make a lot of money from that first contract and so I was in limbo for those six months where I didn’t have a full time job. To get ahead, I worked as a strength coach for a few local boxers, but I wasn’t really earning much.

Have you ever been given silly money?

Yes, in the 1990s I would be paid between £750 and £1,500 for a personal appearance. Sometimes, I’d be opening a gym, other times I’d be setting off fireworks. The most amazing money I’ve ever made was when I was paid £2,000 to go to Eurodisney in Paris and open Space Mountain with Cliff Richard and Paul Young. I have all these crazy pictures of me with him during the ride. it was great fun.

Cold: James Teaches Yoga and 'Gong Baths'

Cold: James teaches yoga and ‘gong bath’

Which was the best year of your financial life?

This was 1997. I earned a six digit amount that year. People believe that if you were a gladiator, you would have made a lot of money from TV shows, but in reality I did not. It turned out to be more appealing than the personal appearances and pantomimes I did.

What’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought for fun?

It was a silver BMW 320 convertible in the late 1990s for £25,000. I bought it because when I personally attended a festival, I could see the disappointment on people’s faces.

What is your biggest money mistake?

Investing in a complex hotel investment plan with 20 others. I lost tens of thousands of pounds after the person running the scheme was busted. After that, I decided that I would stick with investments that I knew a little about.

Best money decision you’ve made?

Investing in buy-to-let properties in 1996. I was 22 and didn’t have a lot of money, but it was so easy to borrow to invest with a buy-to-let mortgage. I bought a three bed house in York for £45,000 with a £2,000 deposit.

I was in that lucky phase when the prices of houses went up, I could re-mortgage and deposit on another house. Now, I have a small portfolio of buy-to-let properties, mainly in London, and this provides my main income. But I have not bought any new property since 2013. I’m not sure that property is such a good investment now.

Do you save in pension or invest in stock market?

No. I put some money into pensions when I was a high earner in the 1990s. I have also invested in stocks and stocks for 20 years, but investing is not something I am quite excited to learn more about. In recent years I’ve just been stuck with bricks and mortar – I look at it as my pension.

James likes to spend on musical instruments like handpan drums, gharial and didgeridoo

James likes to spend on musical instruments like handpan drums, gharial and didgeridoo

Do you have any property?

Yes. As well as my buy-to-let portfolio, My Own Home, a four-bedroom Victorian home in south-west London. I bought it 20 years ago for £400,000 and I think it’s worth around £1 million now.

During the lockdown, I built a gym in the garden. It kept me smart.

What is that one little luxury that you adore yourself?

musical instruments. I keep buying handpan drums, gongs and didgeridoo. Each gong costs £2,000 and I have three of them. I do gong bath meditation at London venues and play gongs, handpans, crystal bowls and crystal harps. After I was blown away by the meditation I had experienced, I went to a gong bath in Bali.

If you were chancellor, what would you do first?

I will give a fair wage increase to NHS health workers. The pandemic highlights their value, but I have been repeatedly compromised by the NHS. During Gladiators, I shook my shoulder six times. I have also suffered many injuries from competing as a stronger person.

Do you donate money to charity?

Yes, I am a big fan of Battersea Dogs Home and the Edward Foundation – a rescue charity for bulldogs. I have two Bulldogs of my own and I am close to them.

What is your number one financial priority?

To keep my head above water and have enough money to spend on things I love to do – travel and play music.

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