UPDATE 1-Brent Cross owner Hammerson says CEO to step down

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(Adds CEO quote, background)

May 27 (Reuters) – Hammerson Chief Executive Officer David Atkins will step down, the shopping mall owner and operator said on Wednesday, as it faces a crisis spurred by coronavirus-induced shop closures and a collapse in rent.

The news comes just weeks after the owner of London’s Brent Cross centre and the Bullring in Birmingham saw the collapse of its 400 million pound deal to sell seven retail parks to private equity firm Orion.

Atkins, who has led the company for over a decade, will step down by 2021 at the latest, Hammerson said.

“The current environment, exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19, is undoubtedly the most challenging we have faced as a business,” Atkins said in a statement.

“I feel now is the right time to search for a new chief executive, a person who can not only lead the business as we emerge from this period, but also into its next chapter.”

Hammerson has been trimming down debt and fixing its balance sheet by divesting some of its portfolio over the past year.

Like its peers Intu Properties and British Land , it has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, which has shut thousands of tenants’ stores and forced some into administration. Many retailers have said they are not currently paying their rent. (Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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