David Smith-Milne is standing down to pursue property start-up ventures

Placefirst MD steps down, chairman and CEO appointed

Chloé Vaughan

Placefirst founder and managing director David Smith-Milne has stepped down, and Bill Oliver and David Mawson have been appointed as chairman and chief executive, respectively.

Smith-Milne has led the Manchester-based build-to-rent developer since its foundation in 2009. According to a statement from Placefirst, he has sold a substantial amount of his stock in the company to private equity backer ESO Capital, but remains a significant shareholder and is exploring other property start-up ventures.

Bill Oliver Placefirst Chairman

Bill Oliver is to become Placefirst’s chairman

Both Oliver and Mawson are expected to join in March. Oliver is currently deputy chairman of Churchill Retirement, and non-executive director of Safestore Holdings. He retired from the board of St Modwen in 2016, where he joined as finance director in 2000 before his promotion to chief executive four years later.

David Mawson joins from contractor Kier Group, where he is an executive director and led the company’s facilities management, housing maintenance and environmental businesses.

They join only months after Paul Westhead joined as director of development from Trafford Housing Trust. His appointment was in order to strengthen Placefirst’s management team.

David Mawson Chief Executive Placefirst

David Mawson will join as chief executive

Mawson said: “It’s an exciting time to be joining Placefirst. Through the strong leadership of [Smith-Milne], Placefirst has quickly established itself as a leader in the UK build-to-rent market and has an ambitious pipeline of funded growth.”

Smith-Milne said: “Having founded Placefirst some 10 years ago, I am proud that we are now firmly recognised as a pioneer in developing homes for rent properties, and have no doubt that the firm will go from strength to strength.”

Placefirst has a pipeline of 1,500 homes and aims to deliver 4,000 homes by 2023. The near-term development pipeline includes sites in Manchester and Bolton.

Specific schemes include 131 homes in Woodnook in Accrington, 90 homes at West End One and Two in Morecambe, 299 homes at Welsh Streets in Liverpool, 73 homes in The Green in Hartlepool and 200 homes at Central Street in Bolton.

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