Irvine Sellar, the developer behind the Shard, died yesterday morning after a short illness aged 82.
The founder and chairman of Sellar Group was best known for his battle against the odds to develop the UK’s tallest building in the face of planning controversy and the headwind of the financial crisis.
He leaves a wife, three children and five grandchildren. His son James, who is chief executive of the group, will take over the running of the company.
Sellar had a career in both retailing and property that stretched back more than 60 years. Having started out selling gloves from his father’s market stall on Petticoat Lane, he expanded the business to become one of the UK’s largest fashion chains – Mates by Irvine Sellar. In the 1960’s the brand was at the centre of Carnaby Street’s revolution as it became the fashion centre of the generation. Mates was the first fashion retailer to sell both men’s and women’s clothing in the same store.
In the early 1980s when the company had 90 stores Sellar sold his fashion business and moved into property, heading listed investment and development firm Ford Sellar Morris. The company collapsed in the downturn of 1991 as its income failed to cover the interest on its £132m of debt.
Sellar’s revival began in earnest in 1998 when he, alongside Simon Halabi and CLS, bought the headquarters of PwC at 1 London Bridge, SE1, which was the first piece of the jigsaw in building the Shard.
Plans for a 1,400 ft skyscraper were released in 2000 and architect Renzo Piano brought on board. In the face of fierce resistance from some quarters, the scheme was given the green light and backed by then mayor of London Ken Livingstone in 2003 following an intensive public inquiry.
The then owners clinched a crucial £196m funding package in 2006 from Nationwide and Kaupthing to allow them to continue to progress the site. An even more important deal then followed in 2008 that allowed construction to start with a consortium of Qatari investors to buy out CLS and Halabi as well as part of Sellar’s stake. The Qatari consortium was unified under the ownership of the State of Qatar the following year.
Having completed in 2012, the 920,000 sq ft building is now virtually fully let and is home to the Shangri-La hotel.
Sellar Group is currently in the middle of another planning battle to develop its latest major project, the Paddington Cube, for which communities secretary Savid Javid issued an article 31 notice last week to allow more time to consider whether the scheme should be called in. The company is also in the process of developing out the final buildings in close proximity to the Shard in the London Bridge Quarter.