Outstanding Industry Contribution 2013
Guillaume Poitrinal won the prestigious IP Real Estate Outstanding Industry Contribution Award 2013 as he began the next chapter of his career, having stepped down as chief executive officer of the listed French commercial real estate group Unibail-Rodamco at the age of 45.
Poitrinal graduated from Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) Business School in Paris with a master’s degree in law. He has spent the majority of his working life redefining real estate and improving the quality of the property sector. His tenure at Unibail-Rodamco goes back to 1995 and following various senior management positions within the group; he took over as chief executive officer at the age of 37 in 2005. As CEO, he was a key architect in the merger of the then French group Unibail and its Dutch rival, Rodamco Europe. The partnership has gone from strength to strength ever since, growing fourfold to become the market leading commercial real estate development group in Europe, with listings on the Paris and Amsterdam stock exchanges.
The merger enabled the new group to realign its focus on large shopping centre industry in continental Europe. This became possible with an innovative disposal policy of gradually selling off smaller assets to generate the capital to invest €9bn in prime developments. These include So Ouest in Paris’s chic western suburbs, the Lyon Confluence commercial centre in the heart of Lyon, the Rivetoile centre in Strasbourg, Rouen’s Docks 76 and, outside France, the Forum Nacka complex in Stockholm. Much of this renewed investment and development came during and after the financial crisis of 2008.
Poitrinal’s leadership and vision enabled Unibail-Rodamco to operate during the ensuring economic uncertainty and market volatility and remain Europe’s largest listed commercial retail group. Unibail-Rodamco has a large portfolio consisting of some 88 shopping centres of which 54 serve more than six million visits per year in the main cities of the countries within which it operates. It has adopted a new marketing approach and its influential four-star customer care and service-ratings system is helping redefine the commercial approach to the shopping centre sector.
Poitrinal left Unibail-Rodamco in a healthy position and the capacity to continue to expand at an ambitious rate. The company has €7bn earmarked to be invested over the next five years. This will allow it to spearhead the emergence of a new generation of large shopping and leisure centres, offices, convention centres and exhibition venues in major cities across Europe. Retail is not the only sector that Poitrinal helped consolidate at Unibail-Rodamco. He oversaw improvements to the office portfolio with the sale of mature assets, such as Coeur Défense, and reinvestment in new value-added developments. He then merged the group’s exhibition centre holdings with the Paris Chamber of Commerce to create two new leading European exhibition and convention centres, Viparis and Comexposium.
Poitrinal also spearheaded the move towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to large retail projects with the first green lease for a shopping complex in 2009. At EPRA, he oversaw the revisions of the association’s by-laws and working practices, and introduced a new governance structure as a consequence. This involved the expansion of its board to 35 members to enable greater sector representation and facilitate better oversight at the same time that EPRA was widening its role to address the challenges of greater regulation. Poitrinal has said he is keen to explore new ground. The real estate industry will be keen for him to return to the fray. At 45, he has plenty of time to do just that.
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