Death of Irvine Sellar 27th February 2017

Irvine Sellar, one of UK property's great figures, has died aged 82 after a short illness.

Sellar, who passed away on Sunday morning, will most be remembered for his determination to create and develop The Shard, the iconic London skyscraper.

His career in both retailing and property stretches back more than 60 years. He was one of the fashion retailers at the heart of the Carnaby Street revolution and “swinging London” of the 1960’s.

The success of “Mates by Irvine Sellars”, the UK’s second largest fashion chain catering for both men and women that was a feature of High Streets up and down the country, was borne out of the street markets which once dominated many British towns.

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

Having sold the retailing business in the early 1980s Irvine moved into property and within a few short years headed up the Stock Exchange quoted Ford Sellar Morris which at its peak generated annual pre-tax profits of £25m and held a widely spread investment and development portfolio,

Along with other companies in the sector the 1991-3 collapse in the property market adversely affected Irvine’s fortunes. But with his noted grit and determination, he picked himself up and started again.

The turning point came in November 1998 when he and two partners acquired accountant PWC’s headquarters at London Bridge. Following a Government White Paper which recommended that planners should look favourably at tall buildings close to major transport hubs, Southwark Towers became the kernel for The Shard and London Bridge Quarter.

Plans for a near 1,400ft tall building were released in April 2000. A few months later thearchitect Renzo Piano was appointed to design a multi-use building that would not only be commercially successful but would also enable visitors to see London “as it had never been seen before”.

The scheme was finally given the go-ahead in November 2003 following an intensive public enquiry. Construction got underway in 2008 and The Shard was inaugurated in July 2012 with a light show that brought London’s traffic to a standstill.

The Shard, together with the wider London Bridge Quarter, was developed in partnership with the State of Qatar, of which Irvine was immensely proud. The partnership continues today as construction of the third building, Shard Place, at LBQ gets underway.

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.

"Today The Shard is an incredibly popular tourist venue for those wishing to visit The View From The Shard, the Shangri-La hotel runs at near capacity, the restaurants serve thousands of covers every week, and the office space is virtually fully let at rents that have established a new level for the area.

"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."

Irvine leaves a wife, three children and five grandchildren.

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