Who’s Who In The Great Hammerson Boardroom Overhaul
In less than a year, the leadership of the shopping centre REIT Hammerson has been transformed — the company, whose share price has dropped 75% in the past two years, is trying to overhaul its strategy, and in record time it has brought in a series of new directors to key roles.
Following two new appointments last week, here are the players who will determine whether a company once in the FTSE 100 can adapt to the new world of consumerism and urban living.
Hammerson announced in June that former Landsec Chief Executive Rob Noel would take over from David Tyler as chairman of the company. Tyler’s seven-year stint in the chair saw the company try to take over rival Intu but get knocked back by shareholders (Intu subsequently went bust) and reject a takeover offer from Klépierre at more than 10 times today’s share price. Noel’s first task was to find a new CEO to replace the outgoing David Atkins, who led those two deals with Tyler.
The choice the company made was Rita-Rose Gagné, president of Growth Markets at Canadian pension fund investor Ivanhoé Cambridge. As a female CEO at a listed UK real estate firm, she is a rarity, and as someone who had been working in Latin America and Asia, she was not a well-known name in UK real estate. The company was already trying to transform from a retail specialist to a mixed-use developer, but Gagné is undertaking a further strategic review to determine the company’s future. She has done no interviews since she took over in November, and the market is still guessing about what the review will bring.
One of Gagné’s first acts when she took over in November was to bring in an ally — Grégoire Peureux, with whom she worked at Ivanhoé Cambridge, was appointed the company’s first ever chief operating officer. The aim is to change the way the company operates as well as what it builds, buys and rents — Gagne’s comment on Peureux’s appointment was that his “new perspective will ensure we become more agile.”
Previous Chief Financial Officer James Lenton said he was leaving in January, and last week the company announced that he would be succeeded by Himanshu Raja. For a company trying to get closer to the needs of consumers, his CV reads well — he was previously CFO at estate agent Countywide, and other roles include stints at G4S and Logica.
Hammerson is going through the process of repositioning its shopping centres, transforming them from mainly retail with a bit of food and leisure to mixed-use schemes including homes, hotels and offices, as well as the aforementioned retail and leisure. In that sense, new Chief Development and Asset Repositioning Officer Harry Badham will play a key role in Hammerson’s future. Badham’s most recent high-profile project at previous firm AXA was 22 Bishopsgate, an office tower that attempted to incorporate far more amenities than the average skyscraper, including educational and conference facilities as well as a health centre and food hall. He will be looking to bring that mix of uses to a more horizontal rather than vertical type of building.