James Saunders - Chief Executive Officer of Quintain

Posted on 23 July 2020

“I am using culture as really one of the core place-making strategies for Wembley Park.  I want Wembley Park to be, you know, the cultural hub of north-west London.  There are loads of interesting little venues and interesting art collectors and stuff going on but there is no sort of critical mass in north-west London and Wembley Park can be that place.“

Susan Freeman

Hi, I’m Susan Freeman, welcome back to our PropertyShe podcast series brought to you by Mishcon de Reya in association with the London Real Estate Forum where I get to interview some of the key influencers in the world of real estate and the built environment.  We are currently recording the podcast digitally so please do bear with us if the sound quality isn’t up to our normal studio standard. 

Today I am absolutely delighted to welcome James Saunders.  James was appointed CEO of Quintain in October 2019.  He was previously COO and has been a main Board Director since 2017.  During his time at Quintain, James has led the repositioning of Wembley Park from an event destination to an exciting new neighbourhood for London.  He has created the strategic direction for marketing, communications and place-making that has led to dramatic reconsideration of the area, increase in footfall, improvements in press coverage and word-of-mouth, plus new partnerships, including with Boxpark, Troubadour Theatres and Second Floor Studios.  He has managed key stakeholder and commercial partner relationships with the GLA, the London Borough of Brent, Wembley Stadium, the FA, AEG and Realm, plus other local stakeholders.  He was responsible for the negotiation of agreements with adjacent landowners that unlock the Wembley Park site from a development and operational perspective.  James holds a Sloan Masters from London Business School, a Law Degree from Cambridge University and is a Barrister.   

So, now we are going to hear from James Saunders on how he became a convert to real estate and came to be running one of our most successful place-making developers. 

James, welcome to the digital studio and first of all, congratulations on becoming CEO of Quintain last October.  I have to say your background is refreshingly unusual for a propco CEO so, a Law Degree, career in marketing and brands, and of course we coincided at London Business School which is all, I mean, it’s twenty years ago now but I do remember, I totally failed in my attempts to interest you in real estate so, what happened in the meantime?

James Saunders

Well, Susan, thank you for inviting me first of all.  I mean, I was coming out of a world of fast moving consumer goods; Coca-Cola, Vodafone, various other places, property for me had always been that static entity where we sold products, the dynamic bit were the products and services flowing through the kind of property assets in fact I didn’t really understand it well enough and I was working after Business School in a Wi-Fi business called The Cloud which grew to be, and is, one of the largest service providers of Wi-Fi owned by Sky today which was all about installation and property in places like Canary Wharf and the City of London, airports and hotels and I learned much more about the kind of built environment from that and I got a phone call from a head hunter saying, “This unusual hybrid property company, Quintain, is looking for somebody who could help them commercialise some of the assets they are building, and by the way they are building this huge asset around Wembley Stadium and we know you know something about the FA from your time at Coca-Cola,” where Coke were the sponsor of the stadium and the arena and the national football team.  So, I started an interesting conversation with the Deputy CEO at the time, Nick Shattock, who, we got on very well, and he persuaded me that actually instead of working for a venture capital backed company, The Cloud, I should come and work doing corporate ventures for a PLC called Quintain and I accepted the challenge and I joined in 2008 to run initially their ventures portfolio, my first project of which was to build a fibreoptic broadband network around Quintain, commercialise the public realm assets, look at the way we buy and work with utility companies, the extent to which we should own our own assets and infrastructure.  That was a fascinating period of time which also coincided with, you know, the great financial… well, the first big property downturn in 2008-2010 which led to us doing fewer ventures, frankly, but my venture then became Quintain itself and working with Max James who was CEO and Richard Stern who was FD on restructuring the company, making it more streamlined and fit for purpose and that led to me becoming COO of Quintain. 

Susan Freeman

Well, I am delighted that Nick Shattock did a better job of persuading you than I did because I did try quite hard and I remember it was an interesting time at London Business School and I remember that we were all sitting round discussing what we would do next and I think you suggested I should go off and be a TV chat show host so, well at least I am doing the podcast anyway.  So, were there any particular skills you learned on the LBS Sloan programme that you call upon in your new role?

James Saunders

Well, I am a lawyer by training although I have never practiced as a lawyer, I have always been a client for lawyers, and I find myself increasingly the client of multiple law firms, as you would imagine, and I am a marketeer by sort of professional choice and background.  I went to LBS principally to boost my finance knowledge, I hadn’t spent enough time on finance and accounting and found that very interesting but probably what I enjoyed most was change management, there was a fantastic course being taught there on change management and that is something that actually I think I have used a lot in Quintain because we have had to change and transform the company several times.  My twelve years at Quintain, I feel like I have actually been part of probably four different companies; it’s got the same name but it’s had different leadership, it’s had different focus and orientation and there’s been a lot of change and actually the people who work at Quintain are very good at managing through change which is fantastic and that has been something that I think has been incredibly useful to have some understanding of.  Without question, one of the reasons I went to work for Quintain was because I always felt that Wembley Park offered a kind of an amazing branding and marketing opportunity, you know, we are taking a kind of overlooked part of London that was associated with major events at an old stadium in a pretty run down semi-industrialised area and our mission is to transform it into a cultural neighbourhood with 8,000 homes, brand new economic engine underneath it both the rental economy from apartments and retail but also work spaces as well and the opportunity ultimately for me is still a marketing challenge because we are still re-educating people about how much the place has changed, now I know you know that area very well from your childhood, it has changed a lot and the change is now quite shockingly surprising to people because where they used to see industrial warehouses, they now see, you know, high rise apartment buildings, landscape gardens, great retail, London’s first outlet centre etcetera, etcetera. 

Susan Freeman

Yes, I mean, as you say, I take a particular interest in the area having grown up there and I know, you know, what it was, you know, effectively an industrial wasteland around the event venues and a lot of people, you know, when you started on this, a lot of people actually didn’t know where Wembley Park was and I remember Max James actually doing an interview with Damian Wild when he was Editor of the Estates Gazette and, you know, Damian said “Well, you know, “where is Wembley Park?” but, I mean, hopefully that isn’t happening anymore.  And you mentioned change management and the real estate sector is not sort of renowned for its ability to cope with change and innovation and do you think that is changing in that, you know, people are actually, you know, really coming to terms with the way, you know, the way that they always did things is not going to be the way they do things over the, you know, coming decade. 

James Saunders

My sort of journey through the property industry, I mean I have discovered and had to learn about all the different sort of ways that the property industry organises itself, it has a very structured set of process and relationships for example with agents that other industries don’t have, it feels sort of, you know, mature in its set up but with maturity sometimes comes, you know, old ways of working and a lot of inflexibility.  I think the sector has been trying really hard to present itself as a more modern flexible, dynamic sort of sector and I think that’s just accelerating and will continue to accelerate, you know, the challenges that the Covid crisis has brought on everybody has sort of, you know, really pushed businesses to work in more efficient and different ways, old orthodoxies have been thrown out the window, the kind of good groundings and the principles of course still apply, you know, property is not going to start levitating like some dotcom type industries, it’s not like that, it’s still going to have that good grounding but I do think people are going to work differently, work more dynamically, every sector is having to embrace different ways of working and I think the property sector is one of those.  Whether people will, you know, work together in the, you know, large agents’ offices in the same way is still to be decided, I think we certainly have found, and I have to say I am, you know, am only a recent covert to the abilities to make home working effective, I have always been slightly sceptical about whether it could be as productive but my experience of the last four months or so certainly, you know, has changed my view of that, we can be highly effective working remotely with good technology but we are missing some of the teamworking aspects and I do think everybody in the sector is going to go through something similar, I don’t think what I have been experiencing with Quintain is any different from anybody else, everybody else comes up sort of with the same points I think but we are in a period now of massive change, the change is now forced upon us and I think people will embrace that. 

Susan Freeman

Yes, I think we’ve all been sort of quite surprised by this homeworking experiment but I think it’s probably too early to sort of make predictions based on four months.  And just, I mean, looking at everything that you’ve achieved with the regeneration of the Wembley Park area, it does seem to me that in order to achieve this, a good relationship with the Local Authority is absolutely key and how important has that relationship been because clearly over a period of years you have had to build up, you know, trust and Local Authorities don’t always trust developers so how does that work?

James Saunders

It’s absolutely fundamental to what we’ve achieved.  I think and I hope that Brent view us as a partner and more than just a developer, you know, we have been a sort of freeholder of 86 acres around the national stadium for nearly twenty years, we co-wrote with them the area action plan to regenerate the area so it had a lot of shared vision in it from the beginning.  We worked closely with them on the original master plan and the sort of economic model behind it which still stands true today.  We are lucky to have them co-located on site so their vote of confidence in our work was such that they bought a two acre site and built a £90 million award winning building in the middle of our site which was fantastic as it brought office workers but also brought an amazing library and community centre to the area.  I think we are one of the only developers to have an office in the same building as the Local Authority because we kept all the retail and one of our offices is now in the retail of the civic centre and we have worked together for all this period of time to bring forward new housing, always having, you know, a good dialogue around, you know, be affordable component, the 106 component, and we’ve worked on lots of strategic projects together to improve the sort of office population, worker population in the local area to drive significant public realm improvements that met their expectations, the most significant one of which is about to happen, we are removing the old pedway that links Olympic Way, which is known as Wembley Way to the football fans, to the national stadium, it’s a relic of the old stadium we are removing that supported by Brent and co-funded by Brent and replacing it with a beautiful set of steps which will be built by 2021.  You know, they are supporting that initiative because it was in the original plan and it’s a significant piece of new infrastructure from their perspective that will really help us complete the re-landscaping of the whole area.  So, they have been a great partner and I would say they have fully embraced the build-to-rent programme that we brought to them about three years ago.  We, like other developers, you know, were trying to push forward a significant build-to-rent programme and Local Authorities at the time, you know, didn’t have a fully formed view of build-to- rent but they have embraced it as an asset class, they have worked with us on it and we have moved a significant proportion of our affordable housing into a discount market rent product which works well for us because it’s the same management system and the same management team running the product and it works well for them because we deliver it faster, it’s more affordable, different tiers of pricing structure and the security of tenure. 

Susan Freeman

And, I mean, that’s interesting because, you know, one of the issues with build-to-rent with some of the Local Authorities is that they don’t really understand the product so that’s good.  And what sort of a proportion of affordable discounted rent are you aiming for in your rental?

James Saunders

So, well overall in the scheme it’s roughly 30% across the site, discount market rent will represent probably two-thirds of that in due course, it’s becoming preferred as a formula.  Shared ownership which we have quantum on site as well, you know, has been slower to move through, slower to sell through than an affordable rental product and therefore affordable rental has… is more popular, feels more like the right product today, although that’s the choice of the, you know, the Local Authority and the registered providers more than ourselves. 

Susan Freeman

So, Wembley must be one of London’s largest housing delivery schemes.  How many units have you got under construction and how many are built at the moment?

James Saunders

So, we’ve built about 1,500, we have under construction another 2,500 and after that, we have two more phases that will take the numbers up to about 8,500 so, we have today a mixture of for sale product that we have built at the beginning of the regeneration project 2008-2010, we have student accommodation and then pretty much for the last four years, we have been delivering exclusively build-to-rent product and will continue to do so.  We are building, I think, very differentiated product, our buildings are all very different and they are designed to appeal to different market segments and they have different design and amenity offers and I think that’s definitely one of the keys from our perspective, we are not trying to build a mass of similar size, similar unit type aimed at the same market, the same price point. 

Susan Freeman

I think I have seen one of your blocks which is designed specifically for families, you know, with children, with play facilities and things because people don’t always think about build-to-rent as being a product that works for families, I mean, has that worked well?

James Saunders

It’s still days with families, I think build-to-rent sort of epicentre has been singles, sharers, couples and so one and two beds and some studios.  It’s popular with overseas students and we have some families living there, I think we are about to deliver a lot more three and four bed accommodation which is specifically aimed at the families and, as you say rightly, some of the amenity space is very geared towards families, raised podium gardens, outdoor play spaces, even a pirate ship which is coming next year in our Canada Gardens development, aimed at kids so, I think very family friendly and also, the way I look at it, you come and live at Wembley Park, you’re not just living in a building with a private garden, you are living in the whole park, it has a campus type feel, we have 50% of everything we are building there is public realm or private gardens or green space so there’s a lot of outdoor space, historically we always used to have to have wide boulevards because of the stadium crowds so we’ve maintained those but we have softened them, we’ve introduced trees, the ground floor there, shops and restaurants and cafes.  There needs to be something to do every day for people, hence Boxpark and various other things we have introduced. 

Susan Freeman

And has build-to-rent performed well during lockdown?  Has there been any problem with rent recover? 

James Saunders

No, it’s been remarkably resilient through it and, you know, we… of course, you have to work and be sensitive to your, you know, tenants’ circumstances but, you know, our rent receivables has been holding up really well, we’re really pleased with it, those that are having any financial difficulty we are working with, you know, we’re not… I know there is currently a Covid enforced restriction on evictions, we are not having to rely on it in any way because our residents are enjoying being there and I think we have learned a lot through this period about what services are really fundamental and which ones probably are more nice to haves, you know, what residents want: clean, safe, secure and surprise, surprise: highspeed broadband, fabulous broadband which I can guarantee them because we own the provider for that, which is the provider I set up in 2008 so, it’s really come into its own and of course, you know, the retail closed for a period of time but I am pleased to say re-opened again.  Mid-June we re-opened the outlet centre, early July we started opening restaurants, cafes and Boxpark so the public realm is getting busier again and more animated, we are going to have to wait longer for the arena and the theatre to re-open and of course Wembley Stadium which is FA owned, it’s having events but behind closed doors so there are no crowds associated with that. 

Susan Freeman

And you have brought culture and the arts to Wembley Park and I think it’s Brent’s Year of Culture?

James Saunders

It is and unfortunately for them it has coincided with lockdown but, you know, Brent has a strong commitment to culture and we have a strong alignment with that, you know, I am using culture as really one of the core place-making strategies for Wembley Park, I want Wembley Park to be, you know, the cultural hub of north-west London.  There are loads of interesting little venues and interesting art collectors and stuff going on but there is no sort of critical mass in north-west London and Wembley Park can be that place.  We started our journey by introducing second floor arts and studio so we have art studios, affordable art studios, on site for the last two years, we have brought the Troubadour Theatre to Wembley Park in the converted Fountain Studios which was just really establishing a great reputation for itself when lockdown arrived and it will be back hopefully later this year.  We have the Royal Philharmonic who have… I persuaded them to come to move their headquarters to Wembley Park and that will be happening next year.  They are an amazing organisation that is involved with, as involved with gaming and movies, doing soundtracks, as it is with doing, you know, full orchestra performances and they have an amazing community outreach programme with Brent already and we are going to use them and work with them to really enhance our cultural and community credentials because we have to build a place that people love to spend time in, it’s fundamental and that’s what’s going to make all this density of rental work, is people like being there, they appreciate the amenity, they appreciate the offers, there’s as much going on there as there is in central London but you are in outer boroughs with more space, more parking, more parks etcetera, etcetera.  Outer boroughs shouldn’t be a compromise. 

Susan Freeman

No and, I mean, the theatre actually, I mean, it’s quite, I mean it’s a reasonable sized theatre isn’t it, it’s what one thousand…

James Saunders

Two thousand people.  Flexible format.  In the old TV studios where they used to film The X Factor, repurposed as a theatre so fantastic acoustics and flexible seating arrangements.  You know, London is actually quite short of theatre space which is sort of an ironic comment given theatres are all closed at the moment but certainly short of flexible space for different types of production and we hope to host, you know, all sorts of different productions, large and small in different formats and when it’s not being used as a theatre, it’s often used as a TV studio or a sound stage so it’s very versatile as a venue. 

Susan Freeman

Yes, of course Wembley Park was known for it’s TV studios and I remember how exciting it used to be when I was a kid, you know, going to see Top of the Pops or whatever it was and seeing all the celebrities coming in and out.  So, I mean, it’s quite a coup to get the Royal Philharmonic to, you know, come to Wembley, I think, you know, they had been in Clerkenwell and the West End so that is, that’s really terrific and I think you mentioned Boxpark and I think this Boxpark is the largest in London and it seems to have an amazing array of offerings including another events space so, is that, that’s additional to what you’ve got at the theatre?

James Saunders

Yes.  So, Boxpark is a joint venture between us and Roger Wade’s company.  As you say, it’s the largest Boxpark they’ve built so far.  The others are in Shoreditch and Croydon.  It’s more like the Croydon version which is more F&B led, it doesn’t have retail on its own, it has 30 food vendors, street food traders who are working out of purpose built kitchens with a central seating area which we have now expanded dramatically, the outdoor seating when they re-opened just earlier this month so it is a food venue, it’s got two great bars, it’s got a nightclub in it called Beatbox, it’s got a neon ping-pong room, it has a Love Island room dedicated to fans of Love Island where they can go and sit on beanbags and watch the show and when the show is running live, celebs from the show come down and talk to the audience, it’s got – don’t gasp – axe throwing so an operator called Bad Axe who has come across from the States to run axe throwing as a competitive socialising sport, and we have VR gaming, an amazing company called Meetspace that is doing really high quality gaming experiences in a dedicated space so, it’s an incredibly versatile space and I think it’s sort of typical I think of what we are trying to create, you know, we are a turnover driven estate that expects to have a changing kind of portfolio of retailers and ground floor uses and that will keep the place fresh and interesting.  What started life as a restaurant could end up something completely different six months later.  We like doing pop-ups, we like doing short-term lets, the outlet centre sort of taught us this model, LDO is now seven years old, it has a lot of established brands and they are like Nike and Adidas and M&S, Next for example, but it also has a lot of pop-ups that come in and pop-ups have always been part of our formula, brings more people in, keeps it looking fresh and actually, ironically, because of Covid there are a lot of retailers at the moment that have a lot of stock and outlet is a clearance strategy for a lot of these people so we are seeing some great new brands come in on a short-term basis.  It sort of bucks all those high street retail malaise trends that we hear so much about.  

Susan Freeman

Yes well I think, as you know, I am a great fan of your designer outlet centre and whenever I go, I seem to come back with loads of amazing things and I think you’ve built a large coach and car park which I think you had to provide when you bought land from the Football Association so, I think 3,000 car parking spaces?  So, you know, it’s quite easy for people to drive if they want to come to you by car. 

James Saunders

Yes.  So, we’ve always had a lot of parking because of the National Stadium.  It used to be right up against the old stadium and a mixture of cars and coaches packed end to end, bumper to bumper.  We then, when the new stadium was built, we moved them into surface car parks close-by and in fact that land is now being redeveloped by us so we reached a series of agreements with the stadium to move that car and coach capacity, which is roughly 500 coaches and 3,000 cars, into either multi-storey format or an underground format or one dedicated, it’s called the Pink Car and Coach Park which we built to the east of the stadium on the way to the North Circular, it’s Europe’s largest and only double-decker coach facility, it’s very large but it’s very iconic, it’s pink and it’s got neon sort of images of famous people that have played Wembley, including Freddie Mercury and Madonna, and people who have performed sporting feats there, the England World Cup team of ’66 and Mohammad Ali for example, we tried to integrate something that, you know, it’s an important piece of transport infrastructure, into the overall kind of theme of the area but also there’s a serious point as well which is about, you know, we want to make sure that event days, which there are roughly 35 stadium days a year and about 100-120 arena nights a year, we don’t want those crowds coming in to actually be a big disruption to living at Wembley Park so the management of crowds through wide boulevards and the efficient management of cars and coaches by placing them on the extremities of the site, is a really important strategy for us, we think the people’s event day experience will be better because they will get away faster but also the residents will be less impacted, so a lot of… it’s one of Wembley’s unique characteristics, you know, we benefit from all that extra footfall but at the same time we need to manage it carefully to make sure it’s not, you know, a nuisance for residents and I think that’s a fine balance that we seek to strike.  As I said, it’s a maximum of 30 odd times a year this happens, it’s not all the time and right now, as I said, there’s nothing happening because it’s behind closed doors. 

Susan Freeman

And when the car parking space isn’t being used for events, are you able to use it for other activities?

James Saunders

Yes.  Absolutely.  So we designed it to be capable of hosting events in particular and we are having a really exciting conversation with the Royal Philharmonic and others about how do we turn this amazing pink car park into an amazing musical experience because it’s not in everyday use and it’s got very high ceilings.  We will also use it for staging things like the NFL tailgate when the NFL come to town, the big merchandise and display opportunities that they need, we will use it for covered markets as well and yes, there are always parking and transport related opportunities but I think we’ve got enough features in it and it’s got enough infrastructure in it for it to be very versatile for us. 

Susan Freeman

We talked about the fact that, you know, Wembley has an amazing sports legacy with the stadium and the arena and also the other celebrities that have come to Wembley for shows.  How important has that been to the regeneration of Wembley and the whole story around Wembley Park?

James Saunders

It’s interesting because when I joined Quintain, we were building apartments that faced away from the stadium because we almost wanted to not be in Wembley because they were worried about the impact of major event days on people’s desire to buy apartments at the time.  Sort of ten years later, we were building apartments to rent that actually faced the arch deliberately because that’s what people wanted to look at so, I think our view as developers completely changed about it and what we’ve tried to do is fully embrace everything that the heritage and the culture offer and then expand it.  So, Wembley was a place that you needed a ticket to participate in the sport and music, now you don’t, we do free music events and busking events and arts and theatrical events in the public realm, you know, we want to make it a place for everybody and you don’t need a ticket to play.  What has clearly helped us along the way, it’s a world famous location and that has been very helpful from, one, attracting first of all oversees investors into our original residential product, secondly, global brands that know it and know it’s association, restaurants that have wanted to benefit from the footfall, international investors into the company itself who they know the location almost instantly when it’s referenced but we, as I said at the beginning, you know the market challenge has been to update the perception of what Wembley is to people, it’s not just about National Stadium and a big arena, it is, you know, a whole cultural hub and residential quarter around those great features and it’s the blending of the two things together that… it is a challenge to get that kind of messaging right and I think we always say to people, you know, seeing is believing, you know, we need to get people to come to site or to experience the site in some sort of virtual digital way to really understand the transformation.  We are lucky enough to have a huge and iconic stadium close to us, many other parts of London have stadia very near them as well so, you know there is a lot of precedent for residential sitting next to national stadium and I think people in the property sector are beginning to understand stadium led regeneration as a kind of concept and I think we absolutely embrace that.  We would say, actually, it’s the stadium is the first catalyst, for us, retail, the LDO was very much the second catalyst and the build-to-rent programme has been very much the third catalyst. 

Susan Freeman

In terms of Quintain’s longer term ambitions, you must have learned an awful lot about regeneration and community building along the way.  Are you going to look to roll this out in other areas?

James Saunders

Absolutely.  So, you know I think we have refined Quintain’s skill set.  When I joined was, you know, very diverse, we had interests in student accommodation, nursing homes, science parks, commercial property in central London and the regen sites and we have refined the modern Quintain down to really focus on regeneration and build-to-rent and it’s that combination of skills that I am really interested in taking forward and using in other locations.  We have some fabulous sites in partnership with our shareholder Lone Star Funds in Ireland which are a combination of homes for sale in largely green field sites and with the prospects of some build-to-rent and some retail regeneration and we have great opportunities in Dublin which is a market which we like very much but we are also looking at and interested in other regen sites, you know, we have a unique, as I said, combination of redev skills and built-to-rent skills, both of which I think are very relevant for reuse in London and we have experience of other London sites that we have worked on in the past including Greenwich Peninsula that we were the master developer with Knight Dragon, before we sold it to Knight Dragon.  We are interested in London, we are also really interested in the regional cities as well. 

Susan Freeman

Okay, well that sounds interesting.  Well, I think it’s probably a good place to end James and, you know, all I can is that I am just so delighted that despite my best endeavours, you did end up in real estate and that, you know, you brought your amazing skill set to bear so please stay in real estate and don’t go anywhere else. 

James Saunders

Thank you and thank you to you for posing that original question to me all those years ago that made me think hard about it and I am delighted that you have achieved your ambition to be a radio presenter. 

Susan Freeman

Thanks very much James. 

James Saunders

Thank you. 

Susan Freeman

So, a huge thank you to James Saunders for telling the exciting Wembley Park story to date and how he came from a marketing background to run the real estate company responsible for creating this vibrant new community and destination.

So, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation.  Please stay safe and join us for the next PropertyShe podcast interview coming very shortly. 

The Propertyshe podcast is brought to you by Mishcon de Reya in association with the London Real Estate Forum and can be found at Mishcon.com/PropertyShe along with all our interviews and programme notes.  The podcasts are also available to subscribe to on your Apple podcast app, and on Spotify and whichever podcast app you use.  Do continue to subscribe and let us have your feedback and comments and most importantly suggestions for future guests and of course you can continue to follow me on Twitter @Propertyshe for a very regular commentary on all things real estate, Prop Tech and the built environment.

James Saunders was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Quintain in October 2019. 
 
James was previously Chief Operating Officer of Quintain and has been a main board director since 2017. As Chief Operating Officer, James led the place-making and estate management at Wembley Park, commercial partnerships, group marketing, IT and health and safety.
 
During his time at Quintain, James has led the repositioning of Wembley Park from an event destination to an exciting new neighbourhood for London. He has created the strategic direction for marketing, communications and place making that has led to dramatic reconsideration of the area, increase in footfall, improvements in press coverage and word-of -mouth, plus new partnerships including with Boxpark, Troubadour Theatres and Second Floor Studios.  
 
As Chief Operating Officer, James also oversaw the Wembley Park estate operations team with responsibility for management of The SSE Arena, Wembley, London Designer Outlet, car parking, health and safety, service charge and retail development.
 
He has managed key stakeholder and commercial partner relationships with GLA, London Borough of Brent, Wembley Stadium, the FA, AEG and Realm, plus other local stakeholders. He was responsible for the renegotiation of agreements with adjacent landowners that unlocked the Wembley Park site from a development and operational perspective.
 
Prior to joining Quintain, James was the Chief Marketing Officer at The Cloud Networks, a consultant to Vodafone Europe and Brand Director at Coca-Cola Great Britain. He holds a Sloan Masters from London Business School, a Law Degree from Cambridge University and is a barrister-at-law.

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