This shy British billionaire has been secretly building up a stake in Hammerson

Emma Haslett
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Whitaker, left, already owns a 26 per cent stake in Intu (Source: Getty)

John Whittaker, the secretive billionaire behind Intu owner Peel Holdings, has been secretly building up a stake in Hammerson, the shopping centre giant behind Brent Cross and the rejuvenation of Croydon town centre.

In a statement to the stock market on Friday, Hammerson said Peel Holdings had taken its stake in the company to 4.6 per cent, worth £213.2m at Friday's closing share price.

Peel already owns a 26.1 per cent stake in Intu, the shopping centre giant which counts the Trafford Centre in Manchester and The Mall at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol among its properties.

Last month Hammerson and its partner Standard Life Investment revealed the details of the £1.4bn facelift they are planning for Brent Cross shopping centre.

A planning application showed plans for 200 shops, 60 restaurants, a cinema, a hotel, a new town square and a larger bus station, as well as 2m sq ft of retail space, and 7,600 new parking spaces.

The plans are part of the £4.5bn regeneration of Brent Cross and Cricklewood being undertaken by Hammerson and Standard Life.

Last year Whittaker was at number 53 on the Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated wealth of £2.2bn, although that had fallen by £140m since the previous year.

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