An Alchemist who found gold

It's not often we put someone on the cover of MT who few people know or recognise. We're happy to make an exception for Jim Ratcliffe, who heads our Top 100 Entrepreneurs list this year by some margin. Ratcliffe's company Ineos makes its money in the unloved bulk chemicals space. He is single-handedly revitalising the British chemicals industry after years in the staid grip of ICI and BP.

by Matthew Gwyther, MT editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Ratcliffe, along with David Cameron, Richard Branson and Luke Johnson, is one of the new tie-less generation of movers and shakers in the UK.

It's a trend MT has been promoting for many years now, and my collection of Milanese Etro neckpieces is brought out only for very special occasions. Helps one concentrate on shirt quality.

Incidentally, despite being worth more than a billion, Ratcliffe has not been consumed by haughty airs and graces. When our photographer, sent to take his portrait at the Ineos HQ, drove to Hampstead instead of Hampshire to carry out the assignment, rather than throw his toys from the pram, Ratcliffe just created a new window in what must be a very busy diary. Our photographer, Iain McKell, is resitting his GCSE in Geography.

On the subject of bolshie toy-throwing, we come to trade unions. I've grown up unsympathetic to much union activity. I did my homework by candlelight during the Winter of Discontent, and in our print media industry the unions were the sort of Luddites who could have brought about the end of all of us - although I acknowledge the complacency and incompetence of many owners back in the '70s.

These days, unions have dwindled into irrelevance in the private sector - membership is running at less than 20%. One just sighs when the brothers vote for another day of inaction on the London Underground for the umpteenth time, although last summer's Gate Gourmet dispute featuring the T&G was unusually nasty and cost British Airways £45 million. (The food hadn't got much better when it returned in the autumn, but bearing in mind how catering budgets have been cut, this is not surprising.) This month, Stefan Stern has written a thoughtful piece about where the unions go in the 21st century. I'm not sure he comes up with many hopeful answers for them, though.

Finally, my second bit of shameless self-promotion in 12 months: I've been awarded a British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) Editor of the Year gong for the second year running. This is, in fact, the third time MT has won it in five years. Sadly, no fat cheque is involved, but I now have an increasingly alarming collection of Perspex shards adorning my desk. Let's hope the Health and Safety enforcers don't object.

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