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John Harvey-Jones

John Harvey-Jones

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Sir John Harvey-Jones MBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (16 April 1924 – 9 January 2008) was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 businessman. He was the chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries
Imperial Chemical Industries
Imperial Chemical Industries was a British chemical company, taken over by AkzoNobel, a Dutch conglomerate, one of the largest chemical producers in the world. In its heyday, ICI was the largest manufacturing company in the British Empire, and commonly regarded as a "bellwether of the British...

 from 1982 to 1987. He may have been best-known for his BBC television
BBC Television
BBC Television is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The corporation, which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927, has produced television programmes from its own studios since 1932, although the start of its regular service of television...

 show, Troubleshooter, in which he advised struggling businesses.

Early life

Harvey-Jones was born in Hackney
London Borough of Hackney
The London Borough of Hackney is a London borough of North/North East London, and forms part of inner London. The local authority is Hackney London Borough Council....

, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, but spent most of his early childhood in Dhar
Dhār is located in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh state in central India. It is the administrative headquarters of Dhar District. The town is located west of Mhow, above sea level...

, India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, where his father was a guardian to a teenage Maharajah. He was shipped back to Britain at age 6 to attend a prep school
Preparatory school (UK)
In English language usage in the former British Empire, the present-day Commonwealth, a preparatory school is an independent school preparing children up to the age of eleven or thirteen for entry into fee-paying, secondary independent schools, some of which are known as public schools...

 at Deal
Deal, Kent
Deal is a town in Kent England. It lies on the English Channel eight miles north-east of Dover and eight miles south of Ramsgate. It is a former fishing, mining and garrison town...

, Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

. He entered Dartmouth Royal Naval College
Britannia Royal Naval College
Britannia Royal Naval College is the initial officer training establishment of the Royal Navy, located on a hill overlooking Dartmouth, Devon, England. While Royal Naval officer training has taken place in the town since 1863, the buildings which are seen today were only finished in 1905, and...

 at age 13.

Royal Navy career

Harvey-Jones joined Dartmouth Royal Naval College as a cadet in 1937, and in 1940, at the age of 16, he joined HMS Diomede as a midshipman. The next two ships that he served with, HMS Ithuriel
HMS Ithuriel (H05)
HMS Ithuriel was an I-class destroyer laid down as Gayret for the Turkish Navy by Vickers Armstrong Naval Construction Works at Barrow-in-Furness on 24 May 1939, but taken over by the Royal Navy on the outbreak of the Second World War whilst still under construction.Launched on 15 December 1940 and...

 and HMS Quentin, were both sunk by enemy action. Harvey-Jones went on to join the submarine service
Royal Navy Submarine Service
The Royal Navy Submarine Service is the submarine element of the Royal Navy. It is sometimes known as the "Silent Service", on account of a submarine being required to operate quietly in order to remain undetected by enemy sonar...

 in 1942, and received his first command at age 24.

With the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Harvey-Jones went to the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 to study Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 in six months and joined Naval Intelligence
Naval Intelligence Division
The Naval Intelligence Division was the intelligence arm of the British Admiralty before the establishment of a unified Defence Staff in 1965. It dealt with matters concerning British naval plans, with the collection of naval intelligence...

 as an interpreter
Language interpretation is the facilitating of oral or sign-language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between users of different languages...

. He married Mary Bignell in 1947, and he commanded the Russian intelligence section under the guise of the "British Baltic Fishery Protection Service", which used two ex-German Schnellboots for gathering clandestine intelligence on the Soviet Baltic Fleet. Rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander, Harvey-Jones was awarded a military MBE in 1952 for his work in Naval Intelligence.

Imperial Chemical Industries

Refused permission by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 to spend more time with his wife and daughter Gaby, who had contracted polio
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route...

, he resigned his commission in 1956 and joined Imperial Chemical Industries
Imperial Chemical Industries
Imperial Chemical Industries was a British chemical company, taken over by AkzoNobel, a Dutch conglomerate, one of the largest chemical producers in the world. In its heyday, ICI was the largest manufacturing company in the British Empire, and commonly regarded as a "bellwether of the British...

 (ICI) on Teesside
Teesside is the name given to the conurbation in the north east of England made up of the towns of Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar, Billingham and surrounding settlements near the River Tees. It was also the name of a local government district between 1968 and 1974—the County Borough of...

 as a junior training manager. In 1973, at age 49, he was promoted to sit on the main board of directors
Board of directors
A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization. Other names include board of governors, board of managers, board of regents, board of trustees, and board of visitors...

. In April 1982, he became Chairman of ICI reputedly at the odds
The odds in favor of an event or a proposition are expressed as the ratio of a pair of integers, which is the ratio of the probability that an event will happen to the probability that it will not happen...

 of 15–1 against, only the second split-career man and non-chemist to reach the top.

Mentored in part by John Adair, Harvey-Jones saw his responsibilities to both stockholders and employees as "making a profit out of the markets where the market is." He maintained a firm belief in "speed rather than direction", on the assumption that "once travelling a company can veer and tack
Tack (sailing)
Tack is a term used in sailing that has different meanings in different contexts, variously a part of a sail, and an alignment with the wind. When using the latter sense, the maneuver of turning between starboard and port tack is either tacking or jibing....

 towards the ultimate objective." Thus, at the business level he cut non-profit making and what he saw as non-core businesses, so that at board level he could concentrate on putting more power in fewer hands "to reduce the number of those who can say 'no' and increase the motivation of those who can say 'yes'", maintaining that "there are no bad troops, only bad leaders". After only thirty months in the job, having cut the UK workforce by one third, he had doubled the price of ICI shares and turned a loss into a one billion pound profit.

Media career

According to one newspaper, it was the BBC's Troubleshooter
Troubleshooter (TV series)
Troubleshooter was a British reality television series, produced and shown by the BBC, focusing on experienced business leaders visiting and advising small and often struggling UK businesses....

series, first broadcast in 1990, that made Harvey-Jones the most famous industrialist since Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

. It ran to five series and several specials in the 1990s and also won him a BAFTA
British Academy of Film and Television Arts
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is a charity in the United Kingdom that hosts annual awards shows for excellence in film, television, television craft, video games and forms of animation.-Introduction:...

 award. His advice was at times controversial - in particular he was critical of the Morgan Motor Company
Morgan Motor Company
The Morgan Motor Company is a British motor car manufacturer. The company was founded in 1910 by Harry Frederick Stanley Morgan, generally known as "HFS" and was run by him until he died, aged 77, in 1959. Peter Morgan, son of H.F.S., ran the company until a few years before his death in 2003...

, which some argue was vindicated, as it is still trading successfully today.

Other positions

In 1989, he became Chairman of The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

, was a non-executive Director of Grand Metropolitan
Grand Metropolitan
Grand Metropolitan plc is a former United Kingdom-based company operating hotels, holiday centres, entertainment centres, public houses and casinos...

 plc (now part of Diageo
Diageo plc is a global alcoholic beverages company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the world's largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine....

), and honorary vice-president of the Institute of Marketing.

Harvey-Jones was also chairman of the Burns-Anderson Group plc, a conglomerate spanning merchant banking (Burns-Anderson Trade Finance), financial services (Kelland & Partners Ltd headed by Steve Kelland), recruitment (Premiere Recruitment headed by Dorian Marks), marketing and business services (Ultimate Response headed by Eric Baskind) and stockbroking (W.H. Ireland Stephens & Co Ltd).

Between 1986 and 1991, Harvey-Jones served as the second Chancellor
Chancellor (education)
A chancellor or vice-chancellor is the chief executive of a university. Other titles are sometimes used, such as president or rector....

 of the University of Bradford
University of Bradford
The University of Bradford is a British university located in the city of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. The University received its Royal Charter in 1966, making it the 40th University to be created in Britain, but its origins date back to the early 1800s...

. A commemorative painting exists in the University of Bradford collection, and Harvey-Jones also agreed to sit for sculptor Jon Edgar
Jon Edgar
Jon Edgar is a British artist born in Rustington, West Sussex in 1968, the grandson of British cartoonist Brian White. He direct-carves in wood and stone using methods of improvisation, and works in clay.-Biography:...

 for a terracotta portrait at Clyro in July 2004.

He was chairman of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust is a wildfowl and wetland conservation charity in the United Kingdom. Its patron is Queen Elizabeth II.It was founded in 1946 by the ornithologist and artist Sir Peter Scott, initially as the Severn Wildfowl Trust...

 and member of The Advisory Council of the Prince's Trust. In 2001, he became the president of the MS Trust
Multiple Sclerosis Trust
The Multiple Sclerosis Trust is an independent, national UK charity that was established in 1993.The MS Trust works to provide information for anyone affected by multiple sclerosis, education programmes for health professionals, funding for practical research and campaigns for specialist MS...


Personal life

Having lived most of his post-retirement period in Ross-on-Wye
Ross-on-Wye is a small market town with a population of 10,089 in southeastern Herefordshire, England, located on the River Wye, and on the northern edge of the Forest of Dean.-History:...

, he died in his sleep after a long illness, aged 83, at the Hereford
Hereford is a cathedral city, civil parish and county town of Herefordshire, England. It lies on the River Wye, approximately east of the border with Wales, southwest of Worcester, and northwest of Gloucester...

 County Hospital.


  • In 1952 he was awarded a military MBE for his work in Naval Intelligence.
  • In 1985 he was voted Britain’s most impressive industrialist by company directors interviewed for MORI
    Ipsos MORI is the second largest market research organisation in the United Kingdom, formed by a merger of Ipsos UK and MORI, two of the Britain's leading survey companies in October 2005...

    's annual "Captains of Industry" survey.
  • Despite his public loathing of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
    Margaret Thatcher
    Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

    , he accepted her offer of a knighthood for services to industry in 1985
  • From 1986 to 1988 (three years running) he received the title of "Industrialist of the Year".
  • In 1992 was awarded the title "Motivator of the Year".
  • In 1992 he won a BAFTA for his Troubleshooter series

External links