It is with great sadness we have to report that another of the sports outstanding players passed away this weekend….Harry Hyams…who won the CTC twice in the Don Shead designed UNOWOT/ UNO EMBASSY previously Tommy Sopwiths ENFIELD AVENGER….Hyams was remembered for the Centre Point building in London and the controversy that surrounded it…
He was also a founder member of the BPRC….and the craft was one of the most successful racers of its day thought by many to be the pinnacle of Sheads design work.
.Photo’s believed to be originally Powerboat Archive
Obituary reproduced from the Guardian
Rarely was the property developer Harry Hyams seen in public – at least if there was any chance the press might be present. But while the epithet “recluse” was frequently attached to his name, it was not strictly accurate. Hyams, who has died aged 87, valued his privacy and would go to almost any lengths to preserve it, yet he was not too shy to enjoy the fruits of his fabulous wealth. Exotic travel, the opera, powerboat racing, vintage cars and horseracing would have been among the hobbies he listed in Who’s Who – had he consented to an entry.
To the fourth estate he had nothing to say but “no comment”, and even that was usually through a lawyer or other spokesperson. The sight of a camera was enough to cause him to take elaborate evasive action. His voice was never caught on tape, at least not by the BBC. As chairman of a publicly listed company, Oldham Estates, Hyams was compelled by law to hold an annual meeting for the company’s shareholders. For many years he chose the most awkward time he could imagine, 4.15pm on New Year’s Eve. Naturally the press was excluded from the meeting, and Hyams would go to extraordinary lengths to avoid being photographed. On one famous occasion he donned a Mickey Mouse mask as he pushed his way through the gaggle of photographers outside the Institute of Directors.
Hyams’s wealth came from a sector in which it is possible to operate quite anonymously. However, he undertook one property development – Centre Point, an office tower in the heart of London at the eastern end of Oxford Street – that was to thrust him into the limelight and with which he would always be associated. Centre Point came to represent the avarice of the postwar property boom, and even before it was built it attracted controversy. In the late 1950sLondon County Council (LCC) wanted to rationalise the busy junction at the north end of Charing Cross Road and needed to acquire land to build a roundabout. Under the law then in force, the LCC could offer only pre-war values, as a result of which the plan became bogged down in bureaucratic process.
Centre Point, the office tower in central London that thrust the developer Harry Hyams into the limelight. Photograph: Philips/Fox/Getty
It was then that Hyams entered the scene, offering to buy the land at current values. He said he would build only on the part of the site not required for the road scheme, provided he could gain the benefit of the whole site when calculating the maximum size of building that could be allowed on the part site. The agreement was never set in writing because it was illegal to “sell” planning consents, but as a result of the deal Hyams was able to build at twice the normal five-to-one ratio of floor space to site area. He then handed the whole site over to the LCC and leased back the part required for building at a fixed rent for 150 years.
The architect George Marsh, working with his colleague Richard Seifert, designed a 385ft, 35-floor tower of concrete and glass (which is now grade II listed), built at a cost of £5.5m over three years from 1963 to 1966. Hyams insisted that the building, one of London’s first skyscrapers, was to be let only to “a single tenant of undoubted covenant”. Partly as a result, it remained empty for the next 16 years, and Hyams was accused of purposely keeping the building empty, as the growth in its capital value was higher than the lost rent. He denied this accusation at every turn, using the lawyer Arnold (later Lord) Goodman to fire off letters and threats of legal action at anyone who suggested the vacancy was deliberate. Protestations of innocence continued until his death.
In 1973, Hyams took out an advertisement in the press claiming Centre Point was “the best known office building in the world”. Some in New York may have disputed that claim, but it was certainly the most controversial. Eventually, Hyams relented and leased the building floor by floor. It was never fully occupied, and the road scheme that precipitated its construction, with its dismal underground pedestrian ways, was for many years a disgrace to the capital. After housing the Confederation of British Industry from 1980 to 2014, in 2015 Centre Point was converted from office space into luxury flats.
Harry was born in Hendon, north London, the son of a bookmaker. After private schooling he joined a firm of estate agents, then switched to property development.
Before he was 30 he was already a millionaire, having taken advantage in the 1950s of the many opportunities provided by second world war bomb sites in prime locations. He was particularly active in developing office space in the 1960s and 70s, and apart from Centre Point, the team of Hyams and Seifert built a number of other notable central London buildings, including Space House, off Kingsway. Hyams’s company, Oldham Estates, in which the Co-operative Insurance Company held a major interest, was eventually taken over for more than £600m in 1987.
In 1964, Hyams paid £650,000 for Ramsbury Manor, a beautiful Charles II mansion tucked away on 600 acres of the Kennet valley in Wiltshire. At the time it was said to be the highest price paid for a private house in England. Using the law, he guarded the privacy of Ramsbury against anything and anyone who might threaten it. He also became embroiled in disputes over shooting rights he owned, which he fiercely protected despite having given up shooting many years before. However, his privacy was shattered early in 2006 when thieves broke into the manor, stealing clocks, porcelain, paintings and other works of art worth around £30m. The stolen goods represented half a century of passionate collecting by the idiosyncratic millionaire, and he was deeply upset by the raid, which remains Britain’s biggest burglary.
As recently as January 2015, Hyams was still using the law to assert his rights, when he objected to plans by the billionaire owner of the H&M fashion chain, Stefan Persson, to build a mansion next door to Ramsbury. He argued that this would infringe his shooting rights.
Hyams’s wife, Kay (nee Hoey), whom he married in 1954, died in 2011.
• Harry John Hyams, property developer, born 2 January 1928; died 19 December 2015