Hugh Seaborn joined Cadogan as Chief Executive in 2008. Prior to this he was Chief Executive of The Portman Estate for 9 years, where he repositioned the business as an active and committed landlord and investor. Before heading up Portman, Hugh spent 10 years with CB Richard Ellis, latterly as Director and Head of Investment Management.
Hugh is a Chartered Surveyor, Chairman of TR Property Investment Trust plc and Chairman of the Knightsbridge Business Group. Hugh was formerly a member of the Council of the Duchy of Lancaster and past Chairman of the Westminster Property Association and the Estates Business Group. He was awarded a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the 2014 New Year Honours List.
Cadogan today manages over 90 acres of Chelsea and Knightsbridge, with a portfolio spanning residential, retail, leisure and office – their long-term stewardship aims to enrich the area’s unique character, while safeguarding its future vitality.
Q: Why do you enjoy working in the sector?
What was it Churchill said, “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us”? I firmly believe that we all make an emotional connection with the buildings, the streets and the neighbourhood we inhabit in one way or another. It is this potential, the ability to make a difference that attracts me to this sector. This is also why I have been immensely fortunate to lead Cadogan, because at the centre of our values is the aspiration to contribute to healthy communities in the very longterm.
Q: What was your first job and what was the worst job you have ever done?
One of my first jobs was being a mango buyer close to the Kenya/Somali border. I was not paid but I was very happy eating as many mangoes as I could. The most challenging job I have ever been given is to raise three sons, but it is without doubt also the most rewarding role I have played.
Q: Why did you choose a career in the commercial retail estate sector?
When I was being brought up in rural Yorkshire, many of my friends were farmers. Therefore, I happily went off to study estate management in Newcastle and was quite surprised to discover it was mainly about commercial buildings!
Q: What is a typical day like?
Most days are all about people. I am fortunate to work with an exceptionally able team and therefore there is a constant exchange of views within the office. This aside, my day is typically full of meetings, getting updates on the exciting development projects we are running, meeting potential retailers or restaurateurs (from the ultimate luxury brands on Sloane Street to exciting independent artisans for Pavilion Road) and giving careful thought to how they might contribute to the area and making sure I am meeting bright talented people with great ideas. Throughout all this my unwavering aim is to ensure everything contributes to ensuring that Chelsea remains one of the finest places to live, work and visit.
Q: Who or what has had the biggest impact on your career?
I have been very fortunate to work with exceptionally talented people and have found amongst them inspiration and examples which I regularly draw upon when facing challenge or adversity. I have also made several very good friends in the sector with whom one can share triumphs and setbacks over a beer.
Q: What advice would you give to people at different levels on developing their careers?
Tenacity, determination and hard work. If you set an ambitious plan and make sure every step moves towards meeting this plan, you will be amazed what can be achieved.
Q: Who inspires you and why?
Many people but Jan Gehl is notable for his common sense and fresh thinking about urban design. It is Jan Gehl who said that “first life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way round never works.”
Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Everyone brings gifts through their talents. But we all should remember that weaknesses are strengths that have been overplayed.
Strengths: focus, determination, impatience and tenacity.
Weaknesses: focus, determination, impatience and tenacity.
Q: What do you think the common qualities that the best leaders have?
My observation is that the best leaders provide a clear and simple vision of what the endeavour could achieve and should aim for. They create and develop teams with the ability to meet these aims, set high standards and then coach, develop and motivate so that the people in those teams can deliver their best for themselves and for the business.
Q: What are you most proud of?