Belfast Telegraph

Executive who launched Titanic Belfast quits new job in Westport after 8 months

By Ivan Little

The man who launched the hugely successful Titanic Belfast tourist attraction has quit the high-profile job he moved to in the Republic just eight months ago.

Tim Husbands, who was at the helm of the Titanic centre from its inception, took former colleagues in Belfast by surprise with his announcement that he was leaving the historic Westport House and Estate in Co Mayo.

In April Mr Husbands, who ran the Waterfront Hall complex before becoming chief executive at Titanic Belfast, said he was "loving" his new role as CEO of Westport House, which includes a four star hotel.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "The town very much talks as 'Team Westport' and about what it can do for the town, for the region. It's really interesting."

The Nottingham native had been put in charge of an ambitious big-money plan to turn the stately home into a major tourist destination and entertainment venue.

Westport House was placed on the market for €10m in early 2016 by the Browne family, whose ancestral home it had been since the 17th century.

They had, however, been struggling to service a massive bank loan needed for maintenance and there was speculation that the Irish Government might step in and save the house and its 455 acres of land. But it never happened.

However, the Mayo-based Hughes clothing group bought Westport House in October and announced a €50m investment project that would create 200 jobs and hopefully increase visitor numbers by one million a year.

And Mr Husbands' appointment was seen as central to its strategy for the future.

He had been credited with helping to make Titanic Belfast one of the world's top tourist attractions and with bringing the MTV music awards to Belfast in 2011. He was awarded an MBE for his work in helping to regenerate the Titanic Quarter.

Previously he had been managing director of the city's Waterfront and Ulster Hall venues, and while he was head of city events and venues at Belfast City Council he helped bring the 2009 Tall Ships Festival.

But a statement from Mr Husbands about his shock departure from Westport House said: "Delays in the advancement of the project have resulted in a longer lead-in period than we had initially predicted.

"I have completed as much preparatory work as I can on the project and the time is right for me to seek more immediate opportunities.

"The Westport House and Estate Project is in the very best of hands with the Hughes family and their senior management team, who I have very much enjoyed working with.

"The estate is primed to become the leading leisure and business destination in the west of Ireland, especially with the significant increase in both domestic and international tourists in the area.

"I wish Hughes and all the team the very best with the project and thank them for the opportunity to play an early role in the Westport Estate story."

The Hughes family said they were indebted to Mr Husbands for his hugely valuable strategic input on the project.

"Unfortunately project delays are part and parcel of life when undertaking significant renovations on an estate that is steeped in history and heritage," the family added.

Belfast Telegraph

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