There's no doubting who the businessperson of the hour is. In rapid fashion, Sir Nigel Rudd has sold off two of the companies he chaired - Boots and Pilkington; he has led another - Pendragon - to a merger; and at a fourth, where he's deputy chair, he's been closely involved in the biggest banking takeover in British history: of ABN Amro. On each occasion, he has made it his duty to extract the best possible terms, playing a high-wire negotiation game and usually winning. He has become Britain's corporate super-salesperson.
Years ago, I went to meet Rudd. He was boss of Williams Holdings, then one of the fastest-growing businesses in the country, and he was a coming business star. Friendly but edgy, he sat me down, then reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. He said it was from his PR agency, and it was all about me. The final line, he said, was: ‘Be careful'.
He looked at me, laughed, crumpled it up and threw it in the bin. ‘Now, what do you want to know?' he asked. It was quite brilliant - disarming yet putting me on notice at the same time.