Mar

1

 Baron Black was Chairman of Leyland Motors. Leyland was one of the UK's great domestic car manufacturers and eventually evolved into Rover Group.

Rover was subject to one of the great "almost happened" deals of British Private equity when, in 2000, Jon Moulton's Alchemy Partners bid to take it over. The deal failed and Rover was taken by the "Phoenix Consortium" - a transaction subject to much comment and controversy when Rover subsequently failed and its assets were sold to Nanjing Auto. The Alchemy deal became an "if only" daydream via which Britain's domestic car industry could have been saved rather than quietly parceling it out to Asia.

But back to Baron Black. Born in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, the good Baron moved from humble beginnings to peer of the realm. Solid business principles no doubt helped him along the way, three of which (via Jim Slater) were:

- Be firm in decision and considerate in execution

So for example, if he had to deal with an executive who had illness, family problems, or was struggling with his job, Black would be firm in insisting upon a solution, but considerate in the way he went about it. Could extra training be given? A transfer? If a move to a new job was required, plenty of time should be given to find a more suitable role, and upon departure, compensation should be generous.

- Back or sack

Baron Black would rarely fail to put his weight behind an executive, and if he did so, it would be to the fullest degree.

- No misunderstandings with friends

In doing business with friends, Baron Black would ensure there was never confusion. He would tell the tale of how a coal merchant in Barrow gave him some advice when he was about to leave his home town. The merchant said "Bill, because I am your friend, I sell you your coal at nineteen shillings a ton, which is a shilling less than to anyone else. Also, because you are my friend, when we deliver to your house, my man only gives you nineteen hundredweight to the ton."

Not bad for a boy from Barrow Technical College.


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