COMMENT: “Friday’s good, but Monday’s better,” is a favourite saying of John Burns.
After 35 years as chief executive of Derwent London, the Sage of Shoreditch delivered his last set of results this week. When Burns began, Derwent was a business with £1.1m of assets; today that figure exceeds £5bn.
It wasn’t quite his last Friday in the hot seat. That falls at the AGM on 17 May when Paul Williams, who himself has already put in a 30-year shift at Derwent, takes over.
Burns will then leave Derwent’s West End HQ, move into an office around the corner and begin a new corporate life as chairman. No doubt he will give Williams the space he needs to establishhimself in post. But he makes no secret of the fact that he will be available to contribute.
It’s not just Derwent where change is sweeping through the boardroom; few developers are standing still. Scott Parsons, for instance, is leaving Landsec, where he is currently retail MD, once a successor is found. He is in talks to take over as chief executive of Argent Related, where he would fill the sizeable shoes being vacated by David Partridge. Partridge has been at the helm of Argent for 16 years and, like Burns, will become chairman next year.
It doesn’t end there. Last month, British Land announced that head of retail, leisure and residential Charlie Maudsley and head of offices Tim Roberts were to leave the business, with Darren Richardspromoted to the new position of head of real estate and bigger roles for Sally Jones, Emma Cariaga and David Lockyer. Elsewhere, intu chief executive David Fischel is leaving that business too.
And then there’s Capco, where perhaps the biggest shake-up of all is set to take place. The business mooted a split of its thriving Covent Garden business and testing Earls Court interests nine months ago. This week it said plans to divide up the business are “well advanced and could be implemented promptly”.
Several offers in relation to the possible sale of the Earls Court development have been received, we’re told; it would be a surprise – and, for some, a frustration – if nothing were announced soon.
Could it be an outright sale to Hong Kong’s CK Asset Holdings? Will Tony Pidgley respond favourably to a community request to buy the assets? Might mooted Middle Eastern interest be capitalised upon? We’ll see. But the structure, ownership and approach to the assets – and the business – will change.
There is another line in the Capco statement which points to why so many propcos are changing so many leaders so quickly: “We note the hardening political tone towards large-scale residential development activity in London. As we are a counterparty to a number of public sector stakeholders, it is possible that our objectives diverge.” With politicians wary, markets uncertain, much of retail in freefall and a flexible revolution ripping through the office sector, the need for change is rife.
Those who aren’t equipped to cope with this new reality will get found out pretty quickly. But those who get it right – a group which, I suspect, includes some of those I’ve already mentioned – should find the first Monday after the revolution even better than the preceding Friday.
Congratulations to Samantha McClary, who takes over as editor of EG this week. She will do an amazing job, and I’m sure she will enjoy the role as much as I have over what has been almost a decade. For better or worse, I won’t be disappearing from view, and will be helping to grow EG in existing and new areas as we too respond to the changes around us.