Before I joined ICI in 1958 as a graduate from Durham University, I was offered a career in professional football. I declined Sunderland's offer, given that I was a staunch Newcastle supporter, that footballers earned little more than the minimum wage at the time and that I had a suspicion I would make a better job in industry.
I have never regretted it. ICI provided me with marvellous training for my career and I went on to work in the US for Welland Chemical, where I learnt the importance of thinking in an entrepreneurial and commercial way. It enabled me to take on a variety of roles that have led me through aluminium, broadcasting, building products, merchant banking and regional regeneration.
It has even taken me to Camelot, one of my most exciting and challenging roles to date. It is one I am immensely proud of, although I do ask myself which would have been the more painful - my meeting with secretary of state Chris Smith in June 1997 following the 'fat cat' saga or the dentist's appointment I had to cancel the same day. My greatest regret, however, is that two big inward investors in the north-east - Fujitsu and Siemens - both closed and there was little I could do as chairman of the Northern Development Company to prevent it.