Mason steps down from Hammerson: Big boardroom reshuffle taking place at property company

HAMMERSON, one of Britain's largest property companies, is undertaking a boardroom reshuffle that will see Sydney Mason step down as chairman after 35 years.

The shake-up also sees the departure of the managing director, John Parry.

Mr Mason, a permanent fixture in the booms and busts of the British post-war property scene, will be replaced by Geoffrey Maitland Smith, chairman of Sears, who has been a non-executive director for three years. Ronald Spinney, who resigned as deputy chairman and joint managing director of Greycoat in February 1992, becomes chief executive.

The changes come just four months after Mr Mason, 72, said he intended to stay in his post until at least the end of 1994 to allow him to bed down a successor for Mr Parry, who was due to retire when he reached 60 next March.

Yesterday, however, Mr Parry said that the search for his replacement had been under way for a year.

Hammerson has been the subject of persistent bid speculation in recent months. There have also been suggestions that Standard Life, which saved it from a pounds 1.3bn bid by Rodamco four years ago and still holds a 23.6 per cent stake, is dissatisfied and would be prepared to sell to a bidder.

Hammerson denied that the management changes were due to pressure from investors, while David Simpson, a director of Standard Life, said: 'Obviously the change is a matter for the board.'

But he added that the knowledge that Mr Parry was retiring meant there was 'a hole in the management, which was worrying. We are glad it has now been filled.'

The changes were welcomed in the City, where there has been growing concern about Hammerson's ability to recover from the property slump. Although there is widespread admiration for Mr Mason - who created the company after joining up with Lew Hammerson in 1949 - his age and Mr Parry's imminent retirement meant there was a growing desire for a change of management.

Mr Spinney, one of the co-founders of Greycoat, is widely respected in the City despite the fact that his former company has been severely affected by the recession.

His departure was believed to be both to save management overheads and because his skills are in development, which Greycoat could no longer afford.

Mr Maitland Smith, who will take up his post at the annual meeting in June, said Mr Spinney's first task would be to conduct a three-month review of the company covering the geographical spread, the mix of property types and the local management. This will form the base for a strategic plan for the group's future.

He pointed out that the average size of investment is far larger at Hammerson than its rivals, with about 80 properties accounting for the pounds 1.6m portfolio. 'That gives ease of management, but there is a difficulty in being flexible,' he said.

The effect of the recession on Hammerson was demonstrated in the results for 1992, also released yesterday, which showed pre-tax profits down 44 per cent at pounds 55.5m and earnings per share halved to 11p. The final dividend was cut from 17p to 6.5p making a total of 10p (20.5p).

Net asset value also slumped 30 per cent to 445p as a property revaluation wiped pounds 380m off its portfolio. Worst affected was Canada, which accounts for a quarter of its assets.

Borrowings rose pounds 21m to pounds 845m despite pounds 188m of disposals, partly due to sterling's devaluation. That, coupled with the fall in asset value, pushed gearing up from 78 to 114 per cent. The shares closed 23p down at 331p.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor