Shaftesbury boss retires in CapCo London mega real estate merger

London mega-merger talks confirmed: Shaftesbury boss to retire after 36 years as £3.5bn Capital & Counties deal finalizes

  • CEO Brian Bickell joined Shaftesbury in 1986, the same year it was founded
  • Executive Directors Simon Quayle and Tom Welton will also leave the company
  • Shaftesbury confirmed it was in merger talks with Capital & Counties Properties

Departure: Brian Bickell joined Shaftesbury in 1986, the same year it was founded by the Levy family

Shaftesbury, the West End landlord, has said the long-serving boss will step down once a potential merger with Capital & Counties Properties is completed.

The two London commercial real estate giants confirmed they were in talks this morning over a £3.5bn mega-merger.

The newly expanded business is said to have 2.9 million square feet of space, covering much of London’s main central territory, ranging from Fitzrovia to the popular shopping and tourist destination of Covent Garden and the Soho entertainment district.

Brian Bickell joined Shaftesbury, the Shaftesbury property investment fund, in 1986, the same year it was founded by the Levy family.

Directors Simon Quayle and Tom Welton will also leave the company, a prominent property owner in London’s Chinatown district, having worked there for more than three decades.

Their departure will take place once Shaftesbury’s potential partnership with Capital & Counties Properties – known as Capco – is settled, creating one of the world’s largest publicly traded commercial real estate companies.

Under the current proposed deal, Shaftesbury shareholders would hold a 53 percent stake in the company, while Capco investors would hold the remaining 47 percent.

Shaftesbury’s chairman Jonathan Nicholls and chief financial officer Chris Ward will become the chairman and chief operating officer respectively, while current Capco chief Ian Hawksworth will take the chief executive position.

Shaftesbury bosses warned: “Talks are ongoing and full terms of a potential merger are not yet finalised. There is no guarantee that an offer will be made.’

Capco already owns 25.2 percent of Shaftesbury after it bought £436 million of the company’s share capital from Hong Kong-based billionaire Samuel Tak Lee two years ago.

This led to suggestions that it would launch a hostile takeover of the FTSE 250 company, whose property portfolio was valued at around £3.8 billion just before the pandemic hit.

Ownership@ Shaftesbury is a large property owner in London's Chinatown district.  It also manages buildings in Fitzrovia, Covent Garden and Soho . entertainment district

Ownership@ Shaftesbury is a large property owner in London’s Chinatown district. It also manages buildings in Fitzrovia, Covent Garden and Soho . entertainment district

After two very challenging years, ravaged by falling rent collections and exemptions, and rising vacancy rates, that estate is now worth around £3.3 billion.

Retail tenants renting the group’s properties in central London have traditionally relied on commuters and international tourists for trade, but strict travel restrictions and the rise of hybrid works have caused their numbers to plummet.

In addition, pubs, restaurants and popular cultural attractions, such as theatres, museums and art galleries, were forced to close their doors or operate under strict capacity limits for much of 2020 and 2021 due to their ‘non-essential’ status.

But as travel and trade rules have relaxed, office workers and tourists have returned in large numbers, although not at levels seen before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Amid a broader downturn in London markets, Shaftesbury shares fell 3 per cent to 559.5 pence in early trading, while Capital & Counties Properties shares fell 3.3 per cent to £1.60.

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