Guys just wanna have fun

Kasmira Jefford
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Grainger, who spent over 20 years in retail, has his sights now set firmly on residential
JLL’s boss tells Kasmira Jefford why his firm is anything but dull

GUY Grainger has something he needs to get off his chest. It seems that some people might think that property and property advisory companies like JLL are, well, let’s say a little bit... dull.

“People often say that to me and I think: hold on a second – where do you work and is it an exciting workplace that you are in? Because we help design workplaces. And then I ask them what is their favourite shop? I used to do lots of work for Hamleys and, how exciting is that?”

With his impeccable dress sense and his steel blue eyes, JLL’s UK chief executive is usually the epitome of calm. But today, at the firm’s West End offices, he is suitably excited as he rattles off a list of projects – from advising fashion retail Superdry to acting for the developers of Battersea Power Station and the Shard – to prove that the New York-listed firm is anything but boring.

The 47-year-old Vespa-loving triathlete and self-confessed shopaholic, which he blames on years of working in retail property, was appointed chief executive two years ago and has been set on overhauling the UK business, which he felt was “too traditional”.

JLL’s revamped offices at Warwick Street, completed in November, were the first thing to change. The sleek conference rooms are equipped with Apple TVs. The first floor has been given over to a new “creative zone” with a coffee shop and bouncy sofas.

A bike used by Bradley Wiggins during one leg of the Tour de France hangs on the wall – Grainger’s own possession – which he says he chose to display as a of symbol of achievement.

Certainly, one of his successes so far has been to grow JLL’s smaller residential arm, which last year only accounted for around 10 per cent of its UK arm. Office rentals represent around 15 per cent, retail 10 per cent and the rest taken up by property investment and management.

In October, he made his first acquisition, buying out the 140-year-old estate agency WA Ellis and giving JLL access to sales and lettings in London’s prime postcodes of Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea.

London’s luxury market cooled last year after several years of soaring price growth. However, Grainger is confident that there is still growth yet to be enjoyed over the long-term in both the prime, and wider London market.

“There is such an undersupply that we look quite long term on residential in London. We knew that the percentage growth we have had over the last few years was definitely not sustainable. But in terms of the long-term investment, the sector is looking robust.”

With the regional markets also set to enjoy further growth this year, JLL made its second timely acquisition last week, snapping Mazars’ Birmingham-based property consultancy arm. “We are focused on where the new developments can take place and following the land,” he says.

The commercial occupier market is another area that Grainger is keen to grow JLL’s presence in. With little new office space to be found in central London and prices at record high, Grainger sees new emerging areas like Stratford, Croydon and Silvertown becoming the next office districts.

“There is some really interesting place-making coming through outside of the core, which is really exciting. With crossrail, you will see core London and the office district spreading out,” he says. With so much work to be done no one could say that life for JLL’s chief executive will be dull.