MANAGING PARTNERS - All the people pictured above are leaders in their field. But none operates alone. Each works closely with a business partner who is an intergral part of their success. This relationship is the theme that MT, in partnership with BT, ex

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

All the people pictured above are leaders in their field. But none operates alone. Each works closely with a business partner who is an intergral part of their success. This relationship is the theme that MT, in partnership with BT, explores in an exhibition starting this month at the National Portrait Gallery. Here, Rufus Olins examines the nature of some intriguing double acts

At work, as well as at home, everybody needs somebody. Few of us can operate on our own as islands. Some partnerships are hidden, whereas others are more obvious, but most of us have a professional bond with someone we rely on: our lawyer, our PA, our accountant, our chairman.

Management Today's exhibition exploring this theme, sponsored by BT and hosted by the National Portrait Gallery, sets out to look at the breadth and depth of professional partnerships. It ferrets out those that are hidden and captures the essence of some already in the public eye. We looked at figures from the world of sport and the arts, as well as the public sector and business, seeking out relationships where one plus one equals three. What did we find?

From Camelot's Michael Grade and Ros Sloboda through to Julie Mellor and Jenny Watson at the Equal Opportunities Commission, what unifies these people is something simple - trust.

'In my case,' says Grade, 'I have virtually no secrets from Ros and it is very healthy. I couldn't undertake the amount of work I do if I didn't have complete confidence in her.' After 14 years of working with Grade, Sloboda has reached the stage where she can predict Grade's mood and his response. She says: 'That means I can make a decision about something without consulting him.'

This theme is echoed in various forms through each of the partnerships. 'We don't always agree,' says Stuart Rose of his Arcadia colleague Charles Wilson. 'And we have had our moments of not speaking, but I trust Charles implicitly.'

The two men have worked together for four different retailers since they met at the Burton Group 12 years ago. When Wilson was still a consultant, Rose asked him to join the decimated board of Booker, the cash-and-carry business, believing that together they could turn it around. He was right, and when he left Booker for Arcadia, the fashion group, Rose took Wilson with him.

A partnership can be a marriage of opposites rather than one of identical halves. 'Stuart has a short attention span and is instinctive, whereas I am analytical,' says Wilson. 'I'm more like Brown and he's more like Blair.' The uneasiness between PM and chancellor, however, highlights how tricky partnerships can be.

Finding someone to trust within the politics of any organisation, someone who will remain loyal during the tough times, is not easy. Partnerships tend to be forged through shared experiences and need resilience to survive the passage of time. One of the newest partnerships selected is between Greg Dyke and Gavyn Davies, who have worked only for the past six months as director general and chairman of the BBC. Asked where the ultimate power in their relationship lay, Davies said it was too early to tell.

As in a marriage, which in some cases is arranged, the roles of the partners are infinite and varied, and no-one outside the relationship can be quite sure how the bond works. Sigmund Warburg, for example, the founder of the investment bank now called UBS Warburg, relied hugely on the intellect and hard work of Henry Grunfeld, his lesser-known partner. The two German-Jewish refugees were outsiders to the British banking establishment, but together transformed mergers and acquisitions in Britain.

Sir David Scholey, former chairman of UBS Warburg and now chairman of trustees at the National Portrait Gallery, recalls the two men discussing the bank and their relationship. Warburg told Grunfeld: 'Well, I know that I couldn't have achieved this without you and you couldn't have achieved it without me.' Grunfeld paused for some time to consider his reply. 'Maybe,' he said.

Few figures in the limelight perform alone. It is perhaps in the nature of partnerships for one half to have a higher profile than the other. When the Football Association's Adam Crozier persuaded Sven Goran Eriksson to take on the task of rejuvenating the England football team, it soon became obvious that Tord Grip, who coached Eriksson in his own playing days, was a part of the package. In Sweden, the two men are seen as so inseparable that Grip is nicknamed 'one half of Sven Goran's brain'. They have worked together since the '70s, selecting players, agreeing tactics and taking Lazio to victory in the Italian league. It was unthinkable that Eriksson would come to England without Grip. 'I can read his mind,' says Grip. 'And perhaps he can read mine.'

So how do you find your professional partner, the person who complements you with their temperament and expertise? There are three main routes. The first is to take a relationship formed in childhood and transfer it to a professional setting.

That was the path taken by ballerina Darcey Bussell, who has formed Bussell & Taylor, a textiles design business, with her childhood friend Lindsay Taylor. Twenty-five years ago, the two girls enjoyed face painting, music, drama, and even dance, together at Fox Primary School in Notting Hill. 'We could both kick quite high, but Darcey was rather better than me at ballet,' laughs Taylor.

If Taylor, now a trained textile designer, had met Bussell only after she had become a prima ballerina, the partnership would never have occurred to either of them. 'We are old, old friends who came to the decision to go into business together,' says Taylor. 'I think to go into business with someone who has exactly the same professional background as you is not necessarily a good idea.'

Rival egos almost always seem to fall out in the end. Ridley and his younger brother Tony Scott have been careful to pursue separate directing careers, and each generates huge publicity for their films (most recently Ridley on Black Hawk Down) while collaborating on the lower-profile commercial ventures such as Shepperton Studios, Scott Free Productions and RSA, the commercials production company they founded 34 years ago.

The most common route into a partnership is to meet someone once you have established your career. Phil Georgiadis recalls being asked by Christine Walker to become a founding partner in her media-buying agency, Walker Media. Before succumbing to the excitement of setting up a business, Georgiadis insisted that Walker visit a business psychologist, Maurice Willoughby of Strategic Resource Solutions Services, whom he had used to profile people in the past, including himself. 'I wanted to find out whether she really wanted a partner or someone to follow in her wake.'

The picture that emerged was surprising. They had suspected that operationally they were complementary, but Walker also revealed a soft, consultative side that ran counter to her tough image in the advertising world; Georgiadis hadn't seen that before.

The analysis of their characters has proved accurate, and four years on they are an established partnership with a staff of 50. Both continue to work hard at their relationship. 'In many ways it is like a marriage,' says Georgiadis. 'You share financial concerns, you go out together in company and you need to divide the responsibilities and workload. Instead of children, you have staff to deal with.'

In rare cases professional partnerships are marriages in the literal sense - a blurring of work and friendship fashionable among architects.

Sir Richard Rogers and Sir Norman Foster both gave it a go. One of the few partnerships to sustain a professional and personal liaison is that of Sir Michael and Lady Patty Hopkins, who have been together since training at the Architectural Association, in 1994 being jointly awarded the RIBA gold medal for architecture.

Equality in any relationship is difficult to achieve. Says Grade: 'The bottom line is that there is a hierarchy in most professional relationships.' When pairings work, each side instinctively takes on a different role.

But it is best to spell things out so that any disagreements that arise can be resolved more easily.

Kirit Pathak, chairman and chief executive of Patak's Foods, who has established one of the biggest Indian food companies in the world, brought his wife Meena into the business nearly 40 years ago. His advice to potential husband-and-wife business partnerships is simple: 'I can't stress enough the importance of having clearly defined rules. You must not allow any professional decisions to come in the way of love.'


Chief executive and executive director, Arcadia Group plc

When Rose got the job he always wanted - running high street retail group Arcadia - he brought Wilson, his right-hand man at both Argos and Booker, with him. Wilson has been described as a 'hard-driven number-cruncher with a good head for strategy' and Rose called his decision to take him to Arcadia 'the best move he ever made'. The pair are pictured on the roof of Arcadia's Oxford Street HQ in London.


Co-founders, Sir Michael Hopkins & Partners

Labelled 'the acceptable face of modernism', Sir Michael and Lady Patty (pictured at their Hampstead home) set up their architectural firm in 1976 and won the RIBA gold medal in '94. Recent projects include the new Glyndebourne, and Portcullis House at Westminster.


Joint chief executives, National Patient Safety Agency

With their seamless partnership, the 'two Sues' have made a big success of jointly occupying the hot seat, first at Barking & Havering Health Authority and now at the National Patient Safety Agency. Williams (left) and Osborn are role models for many jobsharers.


National team coach and assistant, England football team

This relationship dates back to the 1970s and Swedish club KB Karlskoga, where player Eriksson and player-coach Grip first paired up. Grip has been called 'one half of Sven's brain'. Asked to name his finest qualities as a coach, Eriksson replied: 'Tord Grip'.


Chairman and director general of the BBC BBC bosses Davies (till recently a top City economist and former Downing Street adviser) and Dyke (sometime journalist and then chairman of Channel 5) have much in common. Both are self-made millionaires, New Labour supporters and keen golfers. All of which should help Dyke, who admits he was 'miserable' during his first year as DG, to keep up his good spirits. Together only since last September, it's too early to say what the impact of this unashamedly commercial pairing will be on the Beeb.


Patak's Foods

Husband Kirit Pathak looks after operations, while wife Meena runs the PR and devises new recipes for their range of Indian foods.The secret of a working marriage? Strict boundaries and well-defined roles, says Kirit. The couple, 29th on the Asian rich list, are pictured in Patak's Foods' meditation room.


Editor of Private Eye and cartoonist

As well as their Private Eye partnership, which dates back to '86 when Hislop became editor, these two school friends spent five years as scriptwriters on Spitting Image. They also collaborated on BBC TV's comedies The Harry Enfield Show and Murder Most Horrid.


Co-owners, Moro restaurant

With Clark doing the cooking and Sainsbury providing the cash, this stylish pair opened their first restaurant, Moro, in Clerkenwell, London in 1997. Clark and his wife Samantha are both talented chefs. The pair opened their second restaurant, Maquis, in Hammersmith six months ago.


Mayor of London and commissioner of Transport for London

Mayor Livingstone gave Kiley - saviour of the ailing New York subway - the job of rebuilding London's transport system (and securing Ken's future, too). But even promising partnerships can founder - if the Tube is sold off, Kiley may well head back to the US.


Business partners, Bussell & Taylor

Royal ballerina Bussell recently launched textiles design firm Bussell & Taylor with her childhood friend. Taylor is the designer of the company's velvets, raw silks, embroidered bolsters and hangings, which are hand-woven and individually embroidered in India for the firm.


Founder and brand development director of Virgin Group

If anyone other than Branson is responsible for Virgin's PR success over the past decade, it's Will Whitehorn. In their 15 years together they became so close that they spoke at times with one voice. Whitehorn now has an operational role.


Chairman of Pinewood Studios and his assistant

Sloboda and Grade - a team for 14 years - added Camelot to their list in January, when Grade became chair of the lottery operator. Spurs fan Sloboda agreed to be pictured at the Charlton Athletic ground, where Grade is director. 'Neither of us flaps, ever,' she says.


Artist and dealer

'One of the glammest husband-and-wife couples of Britain's art world', Taylor-Wood is an artist and Jopling (founder of the White Cube galleries) her dealer. Their relationship is celebrated - photographed at home by Jillian Edelstein, Jopling reportedly 'lit up' when his wife entered the room.


Chief executive and managing director, Waymade Pharmaceuticals

Photographed at the home of Vijay, the Patel brothers' first business was selling sweets to their schoolfriends. They founded Waymade - which makes and distributes popular medicines - in 1984, and by 2000 had achieved a turnover of pounds 200m.


Founding partners, Walker Media

When Georgiadis met Walker at his interview for a trainee buyer's post at Benton Bowles in 1983, little did he suspect that 15 years later they'd be founding Walker Media together. The partnership was a success, and the company is now one of the UK's leading media agencies.


Chair and deputy chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission

The complementary skills of Mellor (left) and Watson enable them to fulfil a shared ambition to promote equality. Colleagues say the combination of Mellor's ideas and business nous with Watson's focus on the practical effects of decision-making is hard to better.



Both renowned film-makers in their own right, Ridley Scott and Tony - the younger by seven years in this sibling team - run Scott Free Productions. They also jointly chair Pinewood-Shepperton Holdings, and their ad production company, RSA, has made over 2,000 TV commercials in its 34-year life.


Product designers Seymour and Powell both studied at the Royal College of Art, setting up Seymour Powell Design in '84. Two of the best brains in British design, Seymour's advertising background helps in client pitches, while Powell has a gift for detail and business savvy.


Chairman of Trinity Mirror and media tycoon/broadcaster

This unlikely pairing - pictured at the crease of Lord's cricket ground - has raised more than pounds 2m for medical charity Wellbeing since 1989, aided by a hotly contested annual cricket match. Blank and veteran broadcaster Frost first met 30 years ago.


Co-founders of Aardman Animations

Sproxton founded Aardman with schoolfriend Peter Lord (both donned bandanas for our shoot). Sproxton looks after the business, while Lord makes the films. Aardman has won Oscars for its Wallace & Gromit shorts. Chicken Run, its first feature film, came out in 2000.


Co-chairmen of Working Title Films

New Zealander Bevan (above left) met Fellner in '89, and they founded Working Title (now a dollars 1.5bn business) three years later. With films like Four Weddings, Bridget Jones and Captain Corelli to their names, they have been called 'the most powerful producers based in London, ever'.

'Managing Partners' runs at the NPG from 5 March to 30 June.

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