Footballer-turned-developer Gary Neville has been described as “a man of total integrity” with “Manchester values” by the outgoing chief executive of Manchester City Council.
Sir Howard Bernstein steps down at the end of March and used BusinessCloud’s Property Hotseat event to speak out in defence of Neville.
The former Manchester United fullback has come under fire for the St Michael’s project, which could see two huge skyscrapers erected on Jackson’s Row, near Deansgate.
Manchester City fan Bernstein told the audience: “I think Gary is a hugely talented guy – I don’t like him for who he played for but he’s a good guy.
“He’s got all the Manchester values. He actually cares and he’s passionate about always doing the right thing.
“At the same time I think he’s a man of total integrity, and when you put all of those characteristics together, and his very strong strategic focus, then I hope he will continue to play a very strong role in Manchester’s strategic direction for the next couple of decades.”
Bernstein joined the city council in 1971 as a 17-year-old, and said he remained “hugely excited for the future of Manchester”.
He highlighted the city hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2002 as one of his proudest achievements.
“I think the Commonwealth Games for Manchester gave us opportunities to start to build on the Olympic vision and start to develop around east Manchester the real infrastructure that was needed,” he said.
“I think it has also been important to the UK’s story because people often forget what Britain’s prestige was in the world where sport was concerned in the late Nineties. It was pretty low.
“So hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2002 was absolutely fundamental in changing international perceptions about British sport.
“And London would never in a million years have hosted the 2012 Olympic Games were it not for Manchester.”