Article published: Sunday, February 7th 2010
Our upcoming print edition takes a detailed look inside the boardrooms of Manchester’s biggest earners. Here Andy Lockhart offers an insight to Bruntwood, the biggest owner of office space in the city, to give you just a taste of what the movers and shakers of Manchester are involved in.
Keeping up with who’s who and who’s where in the high realms of Manchester’s political and economic elite is pretty much a full time job. The MULE’s ‘Who runs Manchester?’ project threw up a whole host of people, quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations) and public-private partnerships we’d never heard of before. But as expected, one of the companies that kept popping up again and again was Bruntwood.
Bruntwood is a family business, founded by current chairman Michael Oglesby and run by his son Chris, who’s just celebrated 10 years as CEO. Bruntwood owns 25 per cent of the Manchester office market, with no other company coming close to their portfolio. To name a few of their better-known properties, there’s 111 Piccadilly, Portland Tower, City Tower, Piccadilly Plaza and Afflecks Palace. That’s just in Manchester. They’re all over the place: in Leeds, Liverpool, Warrington and Birmingham.
Not surprisingly they’re pretty well connected politically. Michael was High Sheriff of Greater Manchester in 2007, a post which apparently involves being “Keeper of the Queen’s Peace in the County” and “upholding the dignity and well being of Her Majesty’s judges”. The next year he was Vice Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester. He sits on four other boards as well, including that of the Manchester International Festival (sponsored by Bruntwood).
Oglesby Sr also chairs MIDAS, Greater Manchester’s inward investment agency, one of the many places where local politicians and business people plan the city region’s future. The current CEO of MIDAS, Colin Sinclair, has just agreed to take over the position of ‘special projects director’ at Bruntwood, starting in June.
Chris, Oglesby Jr was “delighted” at the appointment. He was also pretty pleased with the appointment of Kate Harrison as Bruntwood’s new Marketing Director. Kate is coming in after being the acting CEO of Cityco, the city centre management company made up of business and local councillors which lobbies the council on behalf of big business. Cityco receives money from…well…the council naturally. Chris himself has been on the Cityco board, and their current chair is one Rowena Burns. That’s Bruntwood’s other CEO, if you were wondering. Kate Harrison also worked for Manchester Airports Group (MAG) for ten years, a private company nevertheless majority owned by Manchester City Council.
Anyway, back to Chris. Place North West reckon Chris is the third most powerful property developer in the whole of the region. Not surprising, since on top of being Bruntwood Chief Executive he has become, according to Bruntwood’s website, “an expert in Local Area Partnerships”. Which is probably why he set up Greater Manchester’s Business Leadership Council, a group of CEOs who “advise the leaders of the Greater Manchester authorities”. It does not say if they were invited to.
Bruntwood, as you can see, have a pretty close relationship with the council. The Oglesbys demonstrated as much with their up-front support for Sirs Richard Leese and Howard Bernstein in their Transport Innovation Fund congestion charge campaign last year.
There’s probably some PR name for all this overlap, like ‘talent circulation’ or something. More cynical people might just say it smells a bit funny.
The next print issue of MULE comes out on February 15.
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