European shopping center pioneer moves to Great Britain

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The Puerto Venecia shopping center in Spain was developed by Eurofund.

One of the most respected shopping center developers in continental Europe has founded a new UK division, Bisnow uncovering, aiming to address the need to rethink retail real estate in the UK.

Ian Sandford’s Eurofund Group has hired a team of three to create Eurofund Retail UK, which will jointly invest and manage the repositioning and redevelopment of retail stores.

Eurofund UK is led by Alberto Esguevillas, the former Development Director and Country Manager at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, who has taken on the role of UK CEO.

He will be joined by Mike Rhydderch with more than 25 years of experience in M&A and capital markets, most recently as Managing Director of Eastdil Secured, who will act as Senior Advisor in Corporate Finance; and Emma Hindes, who has 20 years of experience working for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield on high profile international assets including Westfield World Trade Center and Westfield London. She will assume the role of Chief Operating Officer.

The group is overseen by President Ian Sandford, who was one of the company’s founding directors in 2004 and a rare example of a British founding a successful European real estate company, and Ion Saralegui, Chief Operating Officer and CEO of Eurofund Investments.

Eurofund has submitted bids on shopping center properties that have sold in the UK over the past 12 months, including the Touchwood center in Solihull, which was eventually bought by Ardent for £ 90million. The company also took control of the Trafford Center, which was eventually taken over by its lenders.

Eurofund is the developer of some of the most successful shopping centers in Europe, particularly in Spain, where the company is headquartered. It pioneered the mix of retail and leisure that is increasingly embraced by mall owners more than a decade ago.

It built the 2M SF Puerto Venecia shopping center in Zaragoza, which included a surfing attraction in the wave park, as well as cinemas and restaurants. British Land was one of the original investors in the plan, but it was sold to Orion Capital Managers after Lehman’s collapse. Orion then made a big profit selling the mall to Intu, the UK REIT that went under management last year.

Intu also appointed Eurofund as development manager overseeing the redevelopment of its Xanadu shopping center in Madrid and a huge new development in Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol.

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With the kind permission of Eurofund

Alberto Esguevillas from Eurofund

The US hedge fund Baupost is one of the other supporters of his acquisitions.

In the middle of the last decade, she used the relationships with retail tenants to expand into logistics and founded a joint venture with the industry specialist Logistics Capital Partners.

“There is an amazing opportunity in the UK to take over assets that have suffered not only from the changes in the retail landscape, but from owners who have neither the time nor the capital to manage them,” said Esguevillas Bisnow.

He said Eurofund would work with individual capital partners on individual deals and co-invest its own money, rather than just offering an asset management service for a fee, to create a match of interests.

He said it was not possible to bottom out in the UK retail market as some assets would continue to suffer. But, he added, the market has overcorrected for some assets and if the systems can be successfully repositioned it is possible to make money.

“The assets that dominate their catchment area are retailers there, and we’re going to look at them,” he said.

How do you successfully position a shopping center that the public has fallen in love with? It’s about the mix of uses.

Esguevillas referred to the Dolce Vita Tejo program in Lisbon, which Eurofund bought in 2016 and which has been converted to number 1 by Portugal’s 10th best performing mall by adding other uses like a hospital and plenty of leisure space. He added that last mile delivery room and coworking for UK malls are also on the radar.

“It’s not about fighting the trends of what people want,” he said.

In addition to its core business, Eurofund also owns and operates the “anti-mall” concept The Hood – a community-oriented neighborhood concept that combines retail, gastronomy, leisure, culture and art. The first location was opened in Ubbo, Lisbon, in 2020, with further locations to follow. It also introduced the Tribu co-living concept, with an initial location in Kingston, London under development.


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