Soho Estates anxiously tells the Sunday Times that the appointment of Steve Norris as chairman and the selling of 20% of the company to the estranged son of deceased porn baron, Paul Raymond, does not mean the other 80% will be sold to near neighbour, Shaftsbury. Raymond's son-in-law and boss of Soho Estates, John James, insisted "we are not for sale. It's a tried and tested model -- it will go on forever." Maybe: but watch out for two things. One, joint ventures with Shaftsbury when the pair piece together respective development sites: two, a move into posh residential outside Soho, hinted at by James.
CBRE brags to the daily Times it has beaten JLL and KF to sell the Adelphi building near the Strand, and this is all the idea of Dubai World who simply can't be bothered to refinance £212m of debt now covenants have been breached. Really?The FT carries a profile of the previously invisible Danny Truell, chief investment officer of the Wellcome Trust: the man who naively thinks the government is going to hand over the freehold of the Olympic Park to the Trust for £1b without a transparent bidding process. "Long term, it's worth a bloody sight more than that" said a source last week. Let's see if Mr Truell's publicity bid helps.
But short term the story of most immediate property interest is not in the papers, but in Building Design. It's a share-moving tale of how British Land faces the threat of Broadgate being listed. Let preface the tale by saying this is highly unlikely to happen. But the mere hint that the long term plan to add 1.2m sq ft of space by tearing down some of the existing stock and replacing it with vastly larger buildings might not happen as smoothly as supposed, will be enough to give BL analysts the jitters. Broadgate developer, Sir Stuart Lipton, has already called the new UBS "engine block" the worst building he has seen in 20 years.
A former president of the RIBA, Sir Richard MacCormac, says replacing what's there with the UBS block will be like "chopping up a Nash Terrace." Not really. But you can see where this is leading: to trouble and strife. The "pump-up" plans laid by Stephen Hester when in charge at BL had the potential to add £1b of value. The 700 000 sq ft UBS block is just the first example. The architectural establishment may not have much power. But a fuss they can cause may have the effect of cautioning BL into downscaling future redevelopments. If that is the case, selling 50% of Broadgate to Blackstone for not very much will have been a good idea.