People & Business

John Willcock
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The Independent Online
A sombre start to the week, with the sad news yesterday that Sir Peter Hunt, chairman and managing director for the last 10 years of Britain's biggest property company, Land Securities, has died unexpectedly following a recent operation.

Sir Peter, 64, was due to make way for Ian Henderson as managing director next July, while staying on as chairman. No decision on a new chairman has yet been made by the company, which was said by a spokesman to be shocked by the news.

Sir Peter was still training as a chartered surveyor when he answered a query from Lord Samuel, the entrepreneur who set up Land Securities after the war. Lord Samuel immediately recognised his potential and recruited him to the company. Sir Peter was made managing director 20 years ago.

Lord Samuel built the group on the slogan "location, location, location", investing heavily in prime sites after the war. Sir Peter gained a reputation for preserving that vision by restricting Land Securities largely to UK prime sites. Colleagues say his other key achievements were to identify retail warehouses as a growth market, and to choose the right time to launch development programmes, once in the mid-1980s and again two years ago. He will be missed.

Celltech's research and development director David Bloxham will be leaving the pharmaceuticals company early next year to become chief executive of Therexsys, an unquoted drugs company. Mr Bloxham joined Celltech in 1990 as head of R&D and more recently has had the additional role of chief operating officer.

Celltech said it expects to announce a replacement R&D director in the near future. In the meantime, Geoffrey Yarranton, director of research, and Ursula Ney, director of development, will report to the chief executive, Peter Fellner.

The City Circle, the restaurant at 10 Basinghall Street famous for its scantily clad serving wenches, has been bought by a bunch of South Africans from Richard Reynolds, who ran the establishment for 27 years. Sources close to the eatery tell me that Mr Reynolds was assured of a continuing role at the restaurant, but was eased out last Friday. I've never been there myself (honest).

Companies that specialise in decontaminating nuclear power stations rarely come top of the City's beauty parades, especially if they are listed on AIM. But Jordec has a keen following among specialist AIM trusts run by venture capitalists like Close Brothers, for instance.

Jordec's chief executive is John Foley, a 41-year-old former barrister who gave up the law to become a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse. He then turned businessman by joining Foseco, then moved to Triplex Lloyd before climbing aboard Baris Holdings, which in turn became Jordec last year.

Mr Foley is also non-executive chairman of Belfast City Beat, the radio station and Ulster's answer to Capital Gold. He played cricket at school against Imran Khan, and played for Worcestershire seconds in the 1970s. Jordec has transformed itself from a loss-making provider of ultra-clean environments for the chemicals industries to a specialist operator working hand in glove with the Atomic Energy Authority and British Energy.

A link with Corpex Technologies last month gave the company access to technology that could extend the working lives of the UK's 23 nuclear power stations. Last year the group turned a loss into a small profit but, according to the brokers Williams de Broe, Jordec could double profits to one million pounds this year.

Horace Clarkson, the shipping and insurance broker, said yesterday that managing director Hugh McCoy, who is also chairman of H Clarkson & Co, has decided to retire a year earlier than planned. He will leave the company next February on his 59th birthday "to pursue other business activities" and is due to assume the chairmanship of the Baltic Exchange next June. Gary Weston, a director of Horace Clarkson and deputy chairman of H Clarkson & Co, will succeed him as chairman.

Hot news just in from Enschede in the Netherlands; the Dutch brewing company Koninklijke Grolsch has decided not to launch its special anniversary beer, Finale, after checks showed that the 1.5-litre bottles are liable to break. According to a spokesman, the decision will cost Grolsch "tens of millions of guilders". Grolsch intends to seek damages from the glass manufacturer.