Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Boss of Belfast's Victoria Square quits in major shake-up

Hugh Black
Hugh Black
Belfast's Victoria Square
Belfast's Victoria Square
Yasmin Le Bon at the opening of House of Frazer in Victoria Square. March 2008

The manager of Belfast's Victoria Square shopping centre has resigned as upheaval continues behind the scenes at the upmarket retail destination.

Hugh Black, who has been closely associated with Victoria Square since it opened five years ago, confirmed yesterday that he had resigned.

Mr Black would not say where he will be working after leaving one of the most high-profile jobs in Northern Ireland retail.

"I am moving on to another job and it's a career move," he said.

Mr Black's departure is the latest shake-up in the centre over the last few months after its German owner Commerz Real (CRI) tendered for new letting, PR and marketing teams. Responsibility for lettings and property management has been switched from property agents Savills to BTW Shiells in Belfast and Cushman and Wakefield in London.

It's understood Mr Black was employed by a company established by Savills to run the centre, but that his role would have transferred so that he was employed by BTW Shiells once the switch happened in January this year.

No one from BTW Shiells was available for comment – but Ben Turtle of Savills said Mr Black had done "an excellent job" at the centre.

Cathy Martin, the managing director of CMPR, a public relations agency which has worked for Victoria Square's anchor tenant House of Fraser, said: "I've really enjoyed working with Hugh over the years at Victoria Square – from bringing Yasmin Le Bon over for the House of Fraser opening in 2008 to the underground car park catwalk in 2010 which was talked about in Vogue.

"We also sit together on the Publicity Association Northern Ireland Council and he is always very enthusiastic."

The centre's marketing contract has also been moved from INC Marketing in Belfast to London-based advertising agency M&C Saatchi.

That company, founded by the famous brothers Maurice and Charles, is expected to work on PR for the centre with Co Down-based PR agency Smarts – though Smarts' role has not yet been confirmed.

Belfast-based PR company MCE had previously provided PR services for the centre.

No one from M&C Saatchi was available for comment on Mr Black's exit while Smarts declined to comment.

Background

Changes in the management, letting, marketing and PR of Victoria Square shopping centre are thought to be part of a bid by owner CRI to reinvigorate the brand.

The centre has around 100 shops, including anchor tenant House of Fraser, Holister, Urban Outfitters, Apple, Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Ted Baker and H&M.

CRI is expected to launch a major marketing campaign this month to mark the centre's fifth anniversary.

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