The Peel Group

The Peel Group
Industry Infrastructure,
Land and Property,
Founded as Peel Mills (1920–71)
as Peel Holdings (1971–2004)
as The Peel Group (since 2004)
Headquarters The Trafford Centre, Greater Manchester, United Kingdom
Number of locations
North West England
Key people
John Whittaker
Total assets £6.6 billion (2011)[1]
Owner John Whittaker (75%)
The Olayan Group (25%)
Number of employees
Website Peel Group Website

The Peel Group (commonly known by its former name Peel Holdings) is a private real estate, media, transport and infrastructure investment company in the United Kingdom. Peel's extensive real estate assets consists of 850,000 square metres (9 million square feet) of investment property and over 13,000 hectares (33,000 acres) of land.[3] Peel is one of the largest property investment companies in the United Kingdom,[4] and has its head office at the Trafford Centre, in Greater Manchester.

The Trafford Centre which opened in 1998 was Peel's first major foray into real estate development. The centre was sold in 2011 to Capital Shopping Centres (now Intu Properties) for £1.6 billion making it the largest property acquisition in British history and the biggest European property deal of 2011.[5][6] Other projects which Peel have developed include MediaCityUK and Scout Moor Wind Farm.

The group is led by John Whittaker who maintains a 75% majority stake in the group, with the Olayan Group owning a minority 25% stake. Its long term aim is to make the North West of England the leading economic region in the United Kingdom.[7] The majority of its developments are mainly concentrated on the region. The group is currently focused on the £50 billion Ocean Gateway development for North West England.[8]


One of Peel's earliest acquisitions in the 1980s, was the privatisation of the Manchester Ship Canal - pictured here in Salford and Trafford.

Between 1971 and 1987, the group's founder, John Whittaker acquired Peel Mills, John Bright's and the Manchester Ship Canal Company.[9] John Whittaker was born in Lancashire, and many of his ancestors were involved in the cotton industry. The company evolved into Peel Holdings to reflect its status as a property investment company, abandoning the name of Peel Mills. The group remained quiet for the next decade with little development and from 1971 to 1987, the group focused on purchasing shares in the Manchester Ship Canal Company.[9] The underused ship canal had fallen into disrepair, its size too small for many of the seafaring vessels of today. By the mid-1980s, Whittaker had acquired the majority of the shares in the company and in 1987, with the necessary shares the group privatised the Manchester Ship Canal,[9] despite opposition from Manchester City Council. Peel and the Manchester Council has consequently endured a difficult relationship, with Manchester Council being more ambivalent towards Peel's proposals than those of other Greater Manchester councils where most of Peel's investments are situated. Most recently, in 2011, a proposal to build an eight-storey block of flats in the historic district of Castlefield was rejected for the fifth time by Manchester City Council.[10] The Ship Canal has consequently become a key hub for the Peel Group with numerous developments on the banks of the canal.

The largest asset of the group was formerly the Trafford Centre. In 1986, Peel submitted a planning application for a large shopping centre development on land attached to the Manchester Ship Canal, adjacent to the M63, now the M60, in Trafford, Greater Manchester. The plans had been originally conceived in 1984, with the centre opening in 1998 after one of the most prolonged and expansive planning processes in British history.

In 1997, the Peel Group became involved in airport ownership for the first time. A 76% shareholding in Liverpool Airport was acquired, with Peel taking complete control in 2000 and renaming the airport Liverpool John Lennon Airport.[11] RAF Finningley was purchased in 1999 and redeveloped as Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, opening in 2005.[11] In 2002, Barton Aerodrome was purchased by the Manchester Ship Canal Development Company (a joint venture between Peel and Manchester City Council) and was subsequently renamed City Airport Manchester.[12] The final addition to the Peel Airports portfolio was Durham Tees Valley Airport, with a 75% stake being bought in 2003 - ownership of the remaining 25% of DTVA was retained by several local councils.[11][13]

Results were mixed, and the Peel Group began looking for an outside investor for Peel Airports. In June 2010 it was announced that Vantage Airport Group (formerly Vancouver Airport Services) had bought a 65% shareholding in Peel Airports, while the Peel Group retained the remaining 35%. The new management team at Peel Airports quickly began disposing of assets, selling them back to the Peel Group. First to go was City Airport Manchester in 2011,[12] followed by Durham Tees Valley Airport in February 2012.[13] Sale of the loss-making DTVA resulted in a one-off impairment charge of £8.8m, causing Peel Airports' losses to rise from £3.2m to £11.4m.[14] The same year, Robin Hood Airport made an operating loss of £3.4m (down from £3.7m the previous year)[14] and in December 2012 it was announced that this airport had also been sold back to the Peel Group.[15]

Liverpool John Lennon Airport was therefore left as the sole remaining facility in the co-ownership of Peel and Vantage, a situation which continued for a further 16 months. In the year to 31 March 2013, Liverpool Airport reported a pre-tax loss of £7.1m on turnover of £31.6m, and auditor KPMG said the airport faced "material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt on the company's ability to continue as a going concern".[16] On 24 April 2014, it was announced that Vantage had sold their shareholding in Liverpool Airport back to Peel; this ended Vantage's four-year involvement with Peel Airports .[16]

In 2004, Peel Holdings which was the largest company on the AIM Market went private in a £1.3 billion deal and became the Peel Group.[17] Peel sold the Trafford Centre in January 2011 to Capital Shopping Centres (CSC) for £1.6bn.

The group moved into the energy sector in 2008 with the opening of Scout Moor Wind Farm on the West Pennine Moors in Greater Manchester nearby Edenfield and Rochdale.[18] Peel announced their intention to expand in the scheme in 2011,[19] with the possibility of selling shares to local people to make an investment and appease opposition.[20]

In 2011, Peel launched a takeover bid of the Pinewood Studios Group. Peel already had a minority shareholding of 29% and bought further shares at a cost of £96 million,[21] bringing their shareholding to 71.1%. This fell short of the required 75% necessary to delist the Pinewood Group and also the 90% for a complete takeover. As Peel were acquiring shares, another company, Warren James Jewellers, purchased 26% of shares as a blocking stake and believed Peel's 200p-a-share offer was too low.[22] Consequently, Pinewood Studios Group is now majority owned by Peel and minority owned by Warren James Jewellers, both companies are based in Greater Manchester. Possible motives for Peel's takeover of Pinewood was the possibility of expertise to help their MediaCityUK development,[23] whilst Warren James have had a stake in the group since 2007 and has provided jewellery for films shot at Pinewood Studios.[24] One of Peel's first actions was to apply for planning permission for its 'Project Pinewood' scheme.[25] The £200m scheme would have created up to 1,400 themed homes and various streetscapes which would double on as dwellings and filming locations, but this proposal was rejected in early 2012.[26] In August 2012, Peel purchased the Lowry Outlet Mall in Salford Quays with plans to improve the retail centre.[27]

Future developments

Ocean Gateway

Main article: Atlantic Gateway

As of 2012, Peel have a number of developments, possibly the most notable of which is Ocean Gateway, which will be a £50 billion investment programme over 50 years for 50 separate developments on the strand between the cities of Liverpool and Manchester. The project will involve the construction of two new ports: Port Salford and Liverpool2 and two mixed developments known as Liverpool Waters and Wirral Waters.[28][29]

Renewable energy

As of 2011, Peel Energy currently produces 3GW which Peel claims is enough to power 3 million homes in North West England.[30] The group sees renewable energy as key to creating a stable North West England which is self-reliant on its energy needs, thus helping businesses invest. North West England is ideally situated for the cleanest renewable energy sources with high land and winds for wind energy and rivers and coast for schemes like tidal energy.

In 2008, the Scout Moor Wind Farm which is the largest onshore wind farm began operation and produces enough electricity for the average need of 40,000 homes.[31] The Peel Group proposed to build a biomass incinerator in Davyhulme, but Trafford Council turned down the application in November 2011.[32]

Business structure

The Peel Group has a complex business structure comprising 320 registered companies and subsidiaries in the UK. Its ultimate parent company is the Isle of Man-based Tokenhouse Ltd.

73% of Peel is owned by the Billown Trust, controlled by chairman John Whittaker. The remainder of Peel is owned by the Olayan Group.


Tangible assets

Trafford Centre, developed by Peel and opened in 1998
Scout Moor Wind Farm, the UK's largest onshore wind farm

Peel's assets and projects include:[33]

Ports including

Equity stakes


In 2013, a report by Liverpool think-tank ExUrbe criticised the Peel Group's excessive influence on affairs and development in the Liverpool region,[37] claiming that Peel have "blurred the boundaries between public and private interests".

In June 2013, Margaret Hodge, Committee Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, accused the Peel Group of tax dodging, and stated that some parts of the group pay on average 10% Corporation Tax, and that some of the more profitable parts of the Peel Group pay 0% Tax. [38]


  1. "In Focus: John Whittaker and world domination". 30 November 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
  2. "Careers - The Peel Group". Peel Group. Retrieved 18 July 2011. Our most valuable asset is the 5,000-strong team of talented people who work for us.
  3. "Peel - Liverpool Waters Development Company". Peel Group. Retrieved 2012-03-06.
  4. "Homepage - The Peel Group". Retrieved 2 August 2011. The Peel Group is a leading infrastructure, transport and real estate investment company in the UK.
  5. Ruddick, Graham (27 January 2011). "Capital Shopping Centres seals £1.6bn Trafford Centre deal despite Simon Property Group's concerns". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-09-15. Capital Shopping Centres has sealed the UK's largest ever property transaction after 80pc of shareholders backed its £1.6bn acquisition of the Trafford Centre.
  6. Packard, Simon (23 February 2012). "Capital Shopping Earnings Rise as Trafford Centre Purchase Lifts Revenue". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2012-03-27. The company’s 1.6 billion-pound purchase of the Trafford Centre in Manchester, England, in January 2011 was the biggest single property transaction in Europe last year, according to New York-based Real Capital Analytics Inc.
  7. "Ocean Gateway" (PDF). Peel Holdings. Retrieved 12 July 2011. Preface - This book has been written to give its readers an understanding of the efforts of Peel Holdings to create wealth and prosperity for the future of the North West Region. It endeavours to explain the ethos behind Peel’s projects and activities in the North West to help make it the leading region of the UK line feed character in |quote= at position 179 (help)
  8. Planning, Port. "UK North West Development Agency includes ocean gateway in 2010 regional strategy plan". 6 January 2010. Port Technology International. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  9. 1 2 3 "History and vision". Peel Group.
  10. Linton, Deborah (7 June 2011). "Jackson's Wharf developer steps down in 'David and Goliath' battle over Castlefield flats". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2012-09-05.
  11. 1 2 3 "Historic timeline - The Peel Group". Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  12. 1 2 "Airport History « City Airport and Heliport". Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  13. 1 2 "Background Information". 2012-02-10. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  14. 1 2 "News / Peel Airports losses soar to £11m after Durham sale". 2012-08-20. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  15. "Robin Hood Airport". Robin Hood Airport. 2013-03-15. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  16. 1 2 "Place North West - Peel buys back Liverpool airport". Place North West.
  17. Shah, Saeed (1 July 2004). "Property group Peel goes private in £1.3bn buy-out". The Independent. London.
  18. "Giant wind farm officially opens". BBC News. 25 September 2008. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  19. "Scout Moor Wind Farm expansion plans prepared". BBC News. 12 September 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  20. "Scout Moor Wind Farm expansion plans prepared". Manchester Evening News. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  21. "Pinewood Shepperton accepts improved takeover bid". BBC. 27 April 2011.
  22. Neate, Rupert (23 June 2011). "Pinewood takeover by Peel in doubt". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  23. "Peel Holdings Pinewood and Media City". 17 June 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  24. "Jeweller raises studio stake despite credits rolling on takeover". 16 June 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  25. Sweney, Mark (20 January 2012). "Pinewood pulls plug on £200m 'Hollywood' project plan". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  26. "Pinewood Studios refused planning permission for £200m expansion". BBC News. 20 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  27. "Peel buys Lowry Outlet Mall from Emerson Group". Insider Media. 13 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-05.
  28. Booth, Robert (4 October 2010). "Liverpool developer lures Chinese investors with 'Shanghai Tower'". The Guardian. London.
  29. "". Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  30. "Peel Energy - About". Peel Energy.
  31. "Giant wind farm officially opens". BBC. 25 September 2008.
  32. "Barton Energy Plant plans rejected by Trafford Council". BBC News. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-22.
  33. Archived 20 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  34. "Peel Holdings completes £70m swoop for Lowry Outlet Mall - Manchester Evening News". 2012-08-14. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  35. "UK Coal shares soar despite denial of takeover attempt". 9 March 2010.
  36. "Retail giants shop for UK property". 1 December 2010. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  37. "Liverpool Echo: Latest Liverpool and Merseyside news, sports and what's on". liverpoolecho.
  38. Jennifer Williams (11 June 2013). "Property giant Peel Group accused of 'tax dodging'". men.
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