Shell Mex HouseEdit profile
Shell Mex House is situated at number 80, Strand, London, UK. The current building was built in 1930-31 on the site of the Cecil Hotel and stands between the Adelphi and the Savoy Hotel. Broadly Art Deco in style, it was designed by the architectural firm of Messrs Joseph, with F. Milton Cashmore responsible for most of the work. Standing 58 m (190 ft) tall, with 537,000 sq ft (49,900 m 2) of floor space, Shell Mex House has 12 floors (plus basement and sub-basement) and is immediately recognizable from the River Thames and the South Bank by the clock tower positioned on the south side of the building (flanked by two large, hieratic figures at the south corners). The clock is one of the biggest in London and was known for a time as "Big Benzene". In the words of architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, the building "is thoroughly unsubtle, but succeeds in holding its own in London's river front." The building was for many years the London headquarters of Shell-Mex and BP Ltd for whom it was originally built. Shell-Mex and BP Ltd was a Joint Venture company created by Shell and British Petroleum in 1932 when they decided to merge their United Kingdom marketing operations . Upon the "Brand Separation" of Shell-Mex and BP Ltd in 1975, Shell Mex House became the head office of Shell UK Ltd, which was Shell's "UK operating company". Changes in the way that Shell was run in the 1990s led to the disposal of the property by Shell and today most of its floors are occupied by companies belonging to Pearson PLC, including Mergermarket, Penguin Books, Dorling Kindersley, Hamish Hamilton, Michael Joseph and Rough Guides. Other notable businesses in this building are Groupe Aeroplan, which manages the Nectar loyalty card, and PriceWaterhouse Coopers. During the Second World War, the building became home to the Ministry of Supply which co-ordinated supply of equipment to the national armed forces. It was also the home of the "Petroleum Board" which handled the distribution and rationing of petroleum products during the war. It was badly damaged by a bomb in 1940. The building reverted to Shell-Mex and BP Ltd on 1 July 1948 with a number of floors remaining occupied by the Ministry of Aviation (latterly the Board of Trade, Civil Aviation Division) until the mid-1970s. On 17 May 2006 The Times reported that the building was for sale and that the Indian-Kenyan Kandhari family were the front-runners in the battle to buy it from the present owners, Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz. It was said that they had offered £530 million for the building but were competing with other interested groups, including Menorah, the Israeli insurer, an Irish company, and several British companies. An offer believed to be £520 million ($1.02 billion) was made in December 2006 by Istithmar, the investment agency of the Dubai government, who withdrew their offer before completion. The property was subsequently sold in July 2007 to a fund managed by Westbrook Partners.