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Irvine Sellar dies aged 82

Renowned property developer Irvine Sellar has died at the age of 82.

Mr Sellar passed away on Sunday morning after a short illness, his spokesman confirmed. 

His son James, who has worked with Mr Sellar for the past 20 years, will take over the running of Sellar Group.

Among his achievements was creating the Shard. Speaking at the Construction News Summit last year, Mr Sellar recalled the battle to get the Shard built.

He said: “Industry sceptics said we’d never get planning consent; when we did, they said we’d never finance it; when we did, they said we’d never build it; when we did, they said we’d never lease it; the Shard is now 95 per cent leased; all hopes of progress with the unreasonable man.”

Mr Sellar started his career in retail in the 1960s before embarking on property development.

Mates by Irvine Sellars was the first fashion retailer to sell men’s and women’s clothing from the same store.

Mace chairman responds

Stephen Pycroft, Mace’s executive chairman, said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of the sudden death of Irvine Sellar. He was one of life’s characters and The Shard epitomised the impact he made in London both as a developer and as a person. I came to know him well during the period when Mace were appointed to deliver the Shard and we developed a close working relationship.

He was one of a kind. Above his desk, he had a framed quote from George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” I had the utmost respect for Irvine and he will be sadly missed.”

He told Construction News in 2015: “No one dressed quite as well as those by Irvine Sellar.”

After he sold the retail business in the early 1980s, Mr Sellar headed up the publicly listed Ford Sellar Morris, which at its peak generated annual pre-tax profits of £25m and held a widely spread investment and development portfolio, before its collapse in 1991.

In November 1998, he and two partners acquired accountants PwC’s headquarters at London Bridge. 

Plans for a near 1,400 ft-tall building were released in April 2000. Months later, renowned architect Renzo Piano was appointed to design a multi-use building that has become an iconic part of London’s skyline.

After a public inquiry, the Shard got the go-ahead in November 2003. Construction got under way in 2008 and the Shard was inaugurated in July 2012.

Mr Sellar’s partnership with the State of Qatar on developing the Shard continues today as the Sellar Property Group progresses construction of the third building in the Shard cluster at London Bridge Quarter, Shard Place.

The group received planning permission for the Paddington Cube in December 2016, but the scheme is currently subject to an Article 31 direction, allowing communities secretary Sajid Javid more time to consider whether to call in the scheme.

A spokesman said: “Irvine was not a traditional property developer – he had no formal training in the industry, just a sharp business sense and the ability to see the wider picture. He would often remark that he was the conductor of an orchestra of professionals.

“Few, if any, in the property world ever believed the Shard would be built.

“They thought he would never get planning consent and when he did they thought he would never be able to finance development which he did after securing two major pre-lets.

“It was then thought that he would never build it – but, of course he did. And then no-one thought it would be a commercial success.”

He added: “The property industry has lost an immense and irreplaceable character whose sheer grit and determination will leave a huge void in a sector known for big characters.”

Mr Sellar is survived by his wife, three children and five grandchildren.

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