David Parkin on the passing of a legend

David Parkin on the passing of a legend

I’M sometimes asked who is the “greatest”, most “interesting” or most “inspiring” individual I’ve been fortunate to meet and interview. There is only one answer to all of those questions: Victor Watson. Victor died at the age of 86 on Wednesday. He was an incredible, wonderful man. I can’t begin to summon the kind of words needed to explain his numerous talents, but suffice to say he was a very special individual. He was a unique combination of talent, humility, personality, drive and wisdom that you rarely find in one human being. You could have a go at listing Victor’s achievements, but there wouldn’t be enough space. How he was never knighted, I will never know. A CBE seems scant acknowledgement for not just what he achieved in business, but what he put back into the community. But unlike many who receive gongs, that wasn’t what motivated Victor, or what he went looking for. He wouldn’t have kow-towed or shmoozed politicians: everyone was equal to him. Unless you were tyranical printing tycoon Robert Maxwell, who twice tried to buy Victor’s family printing business, Waddingtons, and who twice was repelled by the great man’t unique combination of leadership, humour and quiet stoicism. I always loved the story about young Victor and his brother John being given a board game to play during the 1930s which their grandfather (also called Victor Hugo Watson) was thinking of importing to the UK from America. It was called Monopoly. Many decades later Victor went to London to unveil a plaque at The Angel, Islington, on the spot where his grandfather and his secretary stopped...
David Parkin on Leighton’s new Co-op Challenge, characters and claims to fame

David Parkin on Leighton’s new Co-op Challenge, characters and claims to fame

IT is 15 years since Allan Leighton left Asda to take up a portfolio of non-executive roles and famously coined the phrase that he was “going plural”. And over the last decade and a half he has displayed impressive judgement in picking the right roles and delivering value to his employers. He led the turnaround of Saltaire TV set-top box maker Pace after it got itself into a mess, he left Royal Mail in a better state than he found it and dumped its ridiculous rebrand to Consignia in the bin and has had a clutch of other non-exec roles at jewellery group Pandora, Canadian retailer Loblaws, Lastminute.com, Cannons health clubs and house builder Wilson Connolly. The only one that didn’t end well was Leeds United, where he was deputy chairman while chairman Peter Ridsdale was doing a trolley dash through the transfer market. He’s clearly a bit sensitive about that one as he once put the squeeze on the then editor of the Yorkshire Post when I wrote a business commentary piece that was critical of him. Now Leighton has a new challenge: he was appointed chairman of the Co-operative Group yesterday and will lead the mutual and banking group’s recovery. As it’s first independent non-executive chair, Leighton has a lot to do. The changes to its management structure were brought in following a review by Lord Myners last year in which he called the group “manifestly dysfunctional” and recommended a major shake-up. The review came after the group reported a £2.5bn loss in 2013 and its banking arm almost collapsed. So Leighton has plenty on his plate,...
David Parkin on Dragons’ Den, endings, beginnings and plane ambition

David Parkin on Dragons’ Den, endings, beginnings and plane ambition

THE end of an era? Not really. But when I wrote my final column for TheBusinessDesk.com in January it was nice to get so many kind comments from readers. Or was it? People suggested they enjoyed reading my blogs every Friday morning but at the same time referred to my considered thoughts as “rants”, “ramblings”, “un-PC”,  “out there” and “inappropriate comments” – and that was just one person’s view. And they said they were a fan. But you can’t keep an average blog down, so here, phoenix-like from the bonfire of my vanities, it reappears in all its first-thing-in-the-morning glory. After an appropriate period of mourning (a week), I will continue to produce some thoughts on a weekly basis, whether you like it or not. And, like before, I won’t aim to challenge you intellectually, just try to inject a little lightness into your end of week endeavours. ::: A CHANGE of role requires you to spend a bit of time on Linkedin, the equivalent of Facebook for business. You have to add your new company, new contact details and job title. Linkedin constantly suggests people to connect with and I’m wondering if it points you towards people of a similar ilk to yourself. I only say that because the first two individuals it suggested I connect with following my change of role had the job titles “semi-retired” and “fantasist”. ::: DID you watch Dragons’ Den last Sunday? It featured Yorkshire-based entrepreneurs Andy Needham and Dan Cluderay, the guys behind Approved Foods. That is the Sheffield-based online business that specialises in selling short-dated and residual stock food and drinks...