Sir George Iacobescu CBE is a Civil and Industrial Engineer and the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canary Wharf Group, the owners and developers of the Canary Wharf estate in London Docklands. He is one of the most successful Romanian born business leaders in the world, and has been responsible for the construction and development of many landmark buildings in the UK, Canada and the United States.
Sir George was born on 9 November 1945 in Romania. His grandfather was a lawyer and newspaper publisher, and his father was a well-known doctor haematologist. Sir George studied Civil and Industrial engineering at Bucharest University. From 1969 to 1975 he worked as a structural engineer in Romania but was determined to leave the country, then under the control of Nicolai Ceausescu’s Communist Party.
In 1975 Sir George left Romania and emigrated to Canada, escaping through the Iron Curtain by contacts in the West. His fiancée Gabriela joined him after Sir George lobbied hard to get her out of Romania.
On arrival in Canada, Sir George started work in the property industry, rising to become the head of construction on some of the most famous landmark buildings in North America.
Career in North America
From 1975-1978 Sir George was Construction Director of Homeco Investments, a German-Canadian Joint Venture in Montreal and Toronto, working on several large residential and office buildings.
In 1978 he joined Olympia & York, taking on a series of large construction projects for the company which was rapidly expanding from it's Canadian base.
From 1978-1981 he was responsible for the construction of the Olympia Centre in Chicago, a 64 storey skyscraper, as well as the construction of Granicor; the first modern granite factory in North America, in Quebec.
From 1983 – 1987 he was the Construction Director, and then Vice President, of Olympia & York, in New York, where he was responsible for the construction of the World Financial Centre, 4m sq ft Headquarters of Merrill Lynch.
In 1988 Sir George came to London as a Senior Vice President of Olympia & York, to oversee the construction budget and delivery of the ambitious Canary Wharf project.
Sir George stayed with the Canary Wharf project when Olympia & York went into administration in 1991 and worked as Construction Director under the Chairmanship of Lord Levene. When the Canary Wharf Group was formed in 1995 he became a Board member and then in 1996, Deputy Chief Executive.
In 1997 he became the Chief Executive of Canary Wharf Group. He additionally became Chairman in 2011.
At Canary Wharf Sir George has participated in the development and construction of more than 15m sq ft in 35 buildings including: One Canada Square, the second tallest office building in the UK; 8 Canada Square the global HQ of HSBC Bank; 25 Canada Square the European HQ of Citibank; One Churchill Place the global HQ of Barclays Bank; 10 Upper Bank Street, the global HQ of Clifford Chance; and the UK or European HQ buildings for Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, KPMG, McGraw Hill, Fitch, the Financial Services Authority and Thomson Reuters.
Following this was the successful creation of the Wood Wharf Partnership with British Waterways and Ballymore to develop a 4.6m sq ft site adjacent to Canary Wharf. From 2007 onwards the Canary Wharf Group expanded outside of its Docklands base into the City of London and then the South Bank. This move into other areas of London included joint venture developments Drapers’ Gardens with Morgan Stanley’s MSREF and the Walkie Talkie building at 20 Fenchurch Street with Land Securities, and recently the redevelopment of the Shell Centre with Qatari Diar.
Sir George is a member of the Board of Trustees of the British Museum, Vice Patron of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute. He is also Patron of Jewish Care and the Community Safety Trust and has been involved as a trustee, patron or board member of several other charities.
He was founding Co-Chairman of Teach First and a key early supporter of the charity, as well as a Director of business lobby group London First, and a Director of inward investment agency Gateway to London. He is on the Advisory Board of Financial Services organisation TheCityUK.
In 2010, Sir George was appointed by the Secretary of State for Defence to the Defence Reform Unit charged with the restructuring of the Ministry of Defence. The Unit made wide-ranging recommendations to the Government in 2011, many of which are already being implemented.
Sir George holds an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from the University of East London and was made a CBE by Her Majesty the Queen in 2003 and named in the New Years Honors List in 2012.
Since Sir George became Chief Executive in 1997, the Canary Wharf Group has extended it's charitable activity with some considerable achievements. The creation of a Local Business Liaison Office to help local companies secure contracts at Canary Wharf has, over 14 years, placed more than £700m with local SMEs.
From a low starting point, the number of people employed on the Wharf from the surrounding boroughs has increased to around 25% of the total, with direct and indirect employment in east London supported by Canary Wharf estimated at more than 180,000 jobs. Initiatives to further promote local employment have been the creation of a joint venture Recruitment and Training Centre for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and a scheme working with local training providers and construction union UCATT to provide skills and IT training to construction workers.
Canary Wharf Group has provided rent-free office accommodation for a number of charities, such as Medicins du Monde and Teach First, enabling them to expand or develop new projects, and hosts a large number of events every year for the local community, as well as an active programme of sponsoring local schools, community groups and sports teams.
The Group has also implemented the creation of an extensive and expanding public art and events programme, including regular exhibitions and permanent installations of sculpture and art. This won Canary Wharf Group the prestigious Christies International Award for best Corporate Art Collection and Programme in 2011. The estate also hosts a large number of events, ranging from squash tournaments to open air orchestral concerts, many of which are free to attend.