Lurene to quit Leeds and Partners in search of new challenges

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INVESTMENT AGENCY Leeds and Partners yesterday announced the departure of chief executive Lurene Joseph.

She is leaving her £160,000-a-year position as CEO at the Leeds City Council-funded company in spring 2015 “to pursue new challenges in the private sector”, said chairman Andy Clarke.

Mr Clarke, the president of Leeds-based Asda, praised her “outstanding contribution” and said she would leave “a lasting legacy for future delivery”.

A spokeswoman for Leeds and Partners said the board will be looking at succession planning and it will be business as usual at the company in the meantime.

Ms Joseph took over the Marketing Leeds agency in April 2012 with a brief to attract new jobs, investment and visitors.

She rebranded the company as Leeds and Partners and tried to focus on sector strengths such as healthcare, financial and professional services, digital and, more recently, fintech.

Leeds and Partners told its annual stakeholders meeting on Tuesday that it had overdelivered on its job creation target through its activities.

In a statement, Mr Clarke said: “Leeds and Partners has undergone a significant period of transition and transformation to reach its current phase of focusing on development and delivery.

“Under the leadership of its CEO, Lurene Joseph, the organisation has transformed the way that the city and wider region approaches inward investment and driving growth in the visitor economy.

“As was recently announced at our annual stakeholder meeting, Lurene’s stewardship has delivered, among other things; the creation of over 1,200 jobs, £10m incremental spend in the visitor economy and the development of a mature investment pipeline; all of which is well over the target set and ahead of the timescale for delivery.”

He said Ms Joseph’s strategic investment approach and commercial collaborations with the private sector nationally and internationally had created a solid foundation for future growth.

Mr Clarke added: “Lurene believes that against this backdrop, the time is right for her to pursue new challenges in the private sector and to continue her work on private sector boards.”

Ms Joseph will leave Leeds and Partners in spring 2015 after helping with succession and transition planning, he added.

Edward Ziff, chairman and chief executive of Town Centre Securities, the Leeds-based property investor and developer, said he was impressed with Ms Joseph and disappointed that she was moving on.

“I hope her employers find someone equally, if not more, talented to take Leeds and Partners to the next level,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

Mr Ziff warned that there are “barbarians at the gate” in the form of rival northern cities competing for prime position.

Ajaz Ahmed, a technology entrepreneur who was among business leaders at the annual stakeholders meeting, questioned the success of Leeds and Partners.

He said that the city needs to market itself more aggressively to win inward investment as rival centres in the UK and Europe are “catching up and taking over”.

Arif Ahmed, senior partner at PwC in Leeds, said the concept of Leeds and Partners should be revisited in the light of the successes of the local enterprise partnership and combined authority in attracting funding to the city region.

Ms Joseph’s tenure was not without controversy. Last year, her organisation faced criticism over its spending on foreign travel. Leeds and Partners defended the expenditure as necessary to meet with potential foreign investors.

Ms Joseph also faced a series of grievances from staff - seconded from the council - involving alleged bullying but these were not upheld by an independent investigation, which reported its findings in December.

Leeds and Partners spent £2.3m in the year to March 2014, including £1.93m from Leeds City Council.

Leeds and Partners said it had in excess of £1m in private sector partnerships and in-kind support during the financial year.

It is understood that the organisation will be working more closely with the LEP in the future.

In a statement issued last night, Ms Joseph said: “It has been a great privilege to work in Leeds and the city region, to be able to forge close collaboration with the private sector, enabled by the public sector across a common agenda of ambition for jobs and economic growth.

“The success of the strategic approach introduced by Leeds and Partners and the recognition of the achievements to date provides confidence that a clear legacy is in place to build on.

“This could not have been delivered without the strong support of staff, the board, shareholders and the wider stakeholder group.

“The magnetism of Leeds and the region is undisputed and I will continue to be one of its strongest advocates.”

From London to Leeds

Andy Clarke, the chairman of Leeds and Partners and chief executive of Asda, said Lurene Joseph would be a “fantastic ambassador” for the city when her appointment was announced in November 2011.

She joined from the London Development Agency, where she worked alongside London mayors Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

She previously held marketing and communications roles at TXU Energy and Shell.

Her appointment marked the end of an eight-month search.

The Leeds and Partners annual report said it has 100 active enquiries and 3,000 potential jobs in the pipeline.