Centre Point developer, property giant Harry Hyams, has died aged 87


Harry Hyams, the property developer behind the Centre Point tower in central London, has died at the age of 87.

Considered instrumental in rebuilding post-war Britain, the businessman was known for his stubborn negotiations and antipathy towards media attention.

Born in Hendon in 1928 to a Jewish family, Mr Hyams began his career working as an office boy for an estate agents firm.

In his 20s, he switched to property development, amassing his millions by converting Second World War bomb sites into office space.

In 1963, he oversaw the construction of one of London’s first skyscrapers, Centre Point, a 385ft, 35-storey tower which is now grade II listed and continues to cast an imposing shadow over the junction between Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road.

The development, and ensuing struggle to find suitable occupancy, was infamous. Mr Hyams was adamant that he wanted to lease it to a single occupant, despite failing to attract any interest. As a result, the building stood empty for 16 years until, finally, he agreed to letting the space storey-by-storey.

Mr Hyams was famously reclusive in his private life, shunning the capital to live with his wife, Kay, at Ramsbury Manor in Wiltshire. The couple were married until she died in 2011 at the age of 91.

An avid art collector, Mr Hyams anonymously loaned several of his most valuable pieces to art galleries up and down the country, including JMW Turner’s “The Bridgewater Sea Piece”, which has been displayed at the National Gallery for the past 30 years.

He has been remembered as “a real gentleman” and – according to fellow property developer Sir Stuart Lipton – is celebrated as “the first man to recognise the importance of skilled planning and development”.

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