When John Kerridge stepped down as head of Fisons last year, citing a heart condition, many assumed that he had gone out to grass. Sixteen months later he has reappeared, apparently restored to health, and has turned his attention to mowing it. Kerridge has taken up the post of non-executive chairman at Ransomes, the Ipswich-based engineers best known for its grass-cutting machinery. He had previously acted as deputy chairman but formally took up his new role at the end of April when the incumbent, Astley Whittall, left for the presumably well-tended pastures of retirement. Citing the ever-increasing worldwide expansion of golf courses, Kerridge speaks with enthusiasm of the prospects of a company that derives much of its revenue from the business of keeping grass short and neat. First, however, he must trim, if not decimate, Ransomes' heavy borrowings. 'There is a big hill to climb to get the company's debt reduced,' he warns.
Kerridge is no stranger to earthy matters, having made his mark at Fisons when he presided over its core fertiliser division. When he became chief executive he surprised many by moving the company away from fertilisers in favour of pharmaceuticals and scientific instruments. This was subsequently recognised as the precursor to Fison's period of spectacular growth - not, alas, maintained. He might, but for his health, have confounded his City critics and made Fisons flourish again. We shall never know. He is now in fine fettle and, though he will also be coping with part-time directorships at Unigate and Legal and General, Ransomes' future could soon be rosier.