An influential business group has announced the appointment of a new chair and vice chair.

Sunderland Business Partnership has appointed Rob Lawson OBE as its new chair, taking over from the previous incumbent Ellen Thinnesen OBE, chief executive of Education Partnership North East.

Rob runs his own PR business and is consultant editor of Wear Business. He was previously editor of Sunderland Echo and chair of Sunderland College.

Professor Lawrence Bellamy, academic dean for the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism at the University of Sunderland has taken on the role of vice chair.

Lawrence has been with the university since 2018 and has a range of experience as a company director, university governor and business columnist, as well as being a reviewer for several international journals.

“I’m delighted to be taking over as chair of Sunderland Business Partnership,” said Rob. “As someone who was born and bred in the city, I’m massively passionate about the area.

“I’ve been involved with the partnership in different forms for several years and I’ve seen first-hand the influence and impact it has.

“I’d like to thank Ellen for chairing the group for a number of years. The partnership has gone from strength to strength and that is in no small part down to Ellen’s fantastic leadership.”

Sunderland Business Partnership is a collective of organisations – large and small – all with an interest in the city’s development, creating opportunities for members to collaborate and grow, which in turn helps Sunderland to be a more dynamic destination for business.

Lawrence said: “It’s a really exciting time for Sunderland. There’s a so much development taking place that will be game changing for the city, driving investment and jobs into the area.

“There can’t be many cities in the country undergoing the type of transformation that we are seeing in Sunderland and there is much more to come.”

“Sunderland Business Partnership plays a big part in shaping the city agenda and providing a strong, collective voice for business. I’m looking forward to taking up my new role as vice chair.”

Sunderland Business Partnership has been involved in several key initiatives in the city, including Sunderland Business Festival, which has been established as an annual event aiming to inspire enterprises from across the region, with a host of engaging speeches and sessions from high profile business leaders.

To find out more about Sunderland Business Partnership visit