Land Securities lines up Channel 4’s Cheshire as next chairman

Business

Land Securities Group, the FTSE-100 property owner, is lining up one of Britain’s most prominent boardroom figures as its next chairman.

Sky News has learnt that Sir Ian Cheshire, the chairman of Channel 4 and Spire, the private hospital operator, has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Cressida Hogg as Landsec’s chairman.

People close to the process said an appointment was likely as soon as this month.

Landsec owns nearly 50% of Bluewater, the vast shopping centre in Kent, as well as the famed Piccadilly Lights advertising screens at Piccadilly Circus in central London and swathes of commercial property in the West End and City.

Sir Ian would be a logical choice to chair one of the UK’s biggest commercial landlords, having run major retailers during his executive career, including Kingfisher, the owner of DIY chain B&Q.

He also chaired Debenhams, the department store group, before being forced out by Mike Ashley, the high street tycoon whose Sports Direct International was the company’s largest shareholder.

His other boardroom roles have included chairing Barclays UK, a non-executive directorship at Whitbread, the hotels and restaurants operator, and serving as the government’s lead independent director.

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Sir Ian became chairman of Channel 4 nine months ago, and has been heavily involved in the broadcaster’s discussions with the government about its now-abandoned privatisation.

The search for Ms Hogg’s successor has been led by Edward Bonham-Carter, the former Jupiter fund management chief, who sits on the board of Landsec as its senior independent director.

Ms Hogg is leaving to take the chairmanship of BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence contractor.

One insider said that Sir Ian, who is also a non-executive director of BT Group, may elect to relinquish one or more of his other boardroom posts if his appointment at Landsec is confirmed.

Under Mark Allan, its chief executive since 2020, the commercial landlord has accelerated the reshaping of its portfolio as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic makes itself felt throughout the industry.

Rising interest rates have also had an effect, with Landsec reporting last autumn a £192m pre-tax loss for the six months to the end of September.

In September, it announced the £800m sale of a City development pre-let to Deutsche Bank.

It has also made a number of recent acquisitions, including the purchase of an additional 25% stake in Bluewater in December 2021 for £172m.

The company’s shares have slipped just over 10% during the last year, leaving it with a market capitalisation of £5.2bn.

Its fellow FTSE-100 property group, British Land, has performed worse over the same period, with its stock 20% lower than a year ago and a market value of just £4bn.

Rival commercial landlords have sought other strategic opportunities, with Capco and Shaftesbury, the owners of big chunks of the West End, including Covent Garden, unveiling a merger last year.

That deal is now being probed by competition regulators.

On Saturday, a Landsec spokesman declined to comment.

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