Graduation ceremony

Barry Owen OBE

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Barry Owen for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.  

Barry Owen, chairman of Mason-Owen Property Consultants, established the company with Geoff Mason over 30 years ago in Liverpool and has developed it into a major player in the property sector, with offices in Liverpool, London, Edinburgh and Dublin. And because of his deep affection for Liverpool, his company is one of the few to have retained its headquarters in the city after establishing a national profile. He is also chairman of the complementary Group, Ethel Austin Properties, a Liverpool-based company with a long history of involvement in property investment and development, and with a gross asset value in excess of £600M.  

Barry Owen was born in Addlington near Stockport during the Second World War to parents who were both from Liverpool. After the war, the family returned to Liverpool and Barry attended Birkenhead School during the 1950s. There he excelled at cricket and athletics and did well enough academically to gain a place on the honours degree in Economics and Economic History at the University of Liverpool.  

After graduating in 1963, he joined property consultants Bernard Thorpe & Partners. His first project experience was with the development of the St George's Shopping Centre in Preston, followed by overseeing town centre shopping schemes in Blackburn and Oldham. He made such a good impression on the firm that they quickly made him a junior partner.  

Full of youthful courage and ambition, Barry started Mason-Owen & Partners with Geoff Mason in 1967. From small beginnings - initially there was the two of them sharing a small office and a secretary -, the firm has evolved, along the way surviving the property crash of the 1970s, to its present complement of well over 100 staff, 40 of them chartered surveyors - and most of the staff being based in Liverpool. 

During the last 4 decades, the firm has had an excellent relationship with our university. In all, they have trained well over 100 young chartered surveyors, many of them graduates from our Estates Management degree in the School of the Built Environment. They are particularly impressed with the quality of our graduates, many of whom do exceptionally well in the profession. And mindful of the increasing financial pressures on young students, the firm now provides a number of much-needed scholarships for our Architecture students.  

Since the 1960s, Barry has been an enthusiastic and astute collector of art, much of which is displayed at the Mason Owen Offices in Liverpool on all available walls and surfaces. The collection, which includes a Lowry oil-painting of Waterloo Dock (Barry was an early devotee of Lowry), is a wonderful mix of the contemporary and the traditional, with a strong Liverpool theme, and adds greatly to the working environment.  

With steadfast support from his wife Susanne and their six children, Barry has dealt with major personal crises during the last decade, successfully recovering from two successive life-threatening illnesses and taking great satisfaction in proving the doctors wrong. Susanne is with us today to share in this proud occasion, along with three of the children: Rebecca, Charlotte and Edward. 

With the new millennium, he has led the business to further success:  

The Company received the Estates Gazette Award for Best Property Advisor of the Year in 2005 and: The Regional Property Award in 2006 from Liverpool Property Professional  

Apart from his passion for art collecting, Barry has a wide range of interests outside work, including shooting, fishing, cricket, rugby, quoiting, and golf.  He is a long-standing member of Royal Liverpool Golf Club, and it was entirely through his personal intervention in completing the necessary land assembly that the Royal Liverpool Golf Club secured last week's Open Championship. Those of us who enjoyed watching the fantastic golf at Hoylake have a lot to thank Barry for.  

His golf handicap is 19, and he modestly maintains that this reflects his wider abilities and achievements.  The evidence would suggest otherwise - metaphorically, Barry is not only a leader of the Order of Merit but also a great role model to his fellow professionals, and universally applauded for his good sportsmanship and generosity of spirit. He is also a patron of the arts and a supporter of a variety of charities linked in some way with Liverpool, examples being Clare House Children's Hospice and Operation Raleigh - he proudly notes that 80 percent of young offenders sent on Operation Raleigh never re-offend. 

And he has no intention of retiring despite having such a wide range of interests together with a genuine determination to spend more time with his wife and family.

Barry Owen, Liverpool through and through, is one of our great post-war business leaders, widely admired in the business world and playing a major role in the regeneration of the city. He was raised here, educated here and has built a very successful business in Liverpool when many others have migrated elsewhere. As a graduate who has stayed and prospered in Liverpool, he serves as a great example to today's graduates, many of whom we trust will themselves stay, and prosper, in this great city.   

Thus I have pleasure in presenting Barry Owen, this most distinguished son of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.