Flags will be flying at half-mast over Liverpool Town Hall today as a mark of respect for the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor, who has died suddenly aged 64 and was synonymous with the city’s regeneration.
The duke’s property company, Grosvenor, won the competition at the turn of the millennium to build a new retail district in Liverpool city centre. Following lengthy land assembly and public inquiries to secure planning permission for the vast project, covering 40 acres, the duke ensured delivery was maintained to a high standard even after the arrival of the financial crisis. Liverpool ONE opened in 2008 and has been credited with turning around the fortunes of the city and improving the centre beyond recognition since the late 1990s.
Many observers say the £1bn project would not have happened, or not to the same quality, without his involvement.
A statement published on Grosvenor’s website said: “It is with the greatest sadness that we can confirm that the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor (64) died [on Tuesday] afternoon at Preston Royal Infirmary. He was taken there from the Abbeystead Estate in Lancashire where he had suddenly been taken ill.
“His family are all aware and they ask for privacy and understanding at this very difficult time.
“No further comment will be made for the time being but further information will follow in due course.”
A spokesman for Liverpool City Council said flags would fly at half-mast over the town hall in honour of the duke’s contribution to the city but no further comment would be made.
Guy Butler, former projects director at Grosvenor and now one of the founding directors of Manchester-based developer Glenbrook, worked at Grosvenor during the creation of Liverpool ONE. He said: “Liverpool ONE would never have been completed without him as a leader. He delivered on his commitments and this ethos was passed throughout the company.
“His generosity to good causes was endless – and his care to his staff exceptional. Early in my career there, having received a business windfall, he shared his success with all the staff equally – I will remember that forever.”
George Downing, founder of the Liverpool-based property group Downing, said: “It’s a very sad loss and all of us at Downing offer our condolences to his family. The Duke was a significant figure in the North West business community. His passion for our region was well known and his investments made an enormously positive impact on Liverpool in particular, reshaping the city.
“To meet, the Duke was a very pleasant, self-effacing character. He was careful in everything he did and was much respected for his decency. If you look at the work of his Westminster Foundation you can see a great deal of concern for lower income families. Poverty in the UK and youth homelessness were both very high on his agenda. He has left us far too soon but his legacy is a good one.”
The duke lived at Eaton Hall, a country house with 10,000 acres in Eccleston, Cheshire. He was a loyal champion of investment in Cheshire for many years and hosted business events to promote the county at his home.
Katrina Michel, chief executive of Marketing Cheshire, said: “As an ambassador of Cheshire, The Duke of Westminster was beyond compare. Not only did he invest in the county with innovative and exciting businesses like [bovine genetics developer] Cogent, he advocated the benefits of Cheshire to the world at large in the warm, self-effacing and genuine manner that was characteristic of him. He will be sadly missed.”
He was often referred to as Britain’s richest man, said to be worth £9.35bn according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2016. Grosvenor’s property holdings include large parts of Mayfair and Belgravia in London, and the group develops large projects around the world.
The duke’s heir, Hugh Grosvenor, 25, is godfather to Prince George. The duke wife’s Natalia is godmother to the Duke of Cambridge.
A spokesman for Clarence House said the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were “deeply shocked and greatly saddened” by the sudden death of their friend the Duke of Westminster.
The duke was raised in Northern Ireland and planned a career in the armed forces before becoming the sixth Duke of Westminster at 27. He remained involved with the Territorial Army. The pressure of business and public appearances weighed heavily on him and he had suffered from depression.
He is survived by his wife, Natalia, four children, and four grandchildren.