UK: Succession - Who will inherit the mantle when the last of Britain's grey-headed gang are all gone? (5 of 7)

UK: Succession - Who will inherit the mantle when the last of Britain's grey-headed gang are all gone? (5 of 7) - Moores gene pools a mess.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Moores gene pools a mess.

Littlewoods is Britain's largest private company. All of the shares in the group are held by the Moores family, headed by 95-year-old Sir John Moores, who founded the pools business in the early 1930s. For 40 years Littlewoods was synonymous with Sir John. He guided it into new business ventures such as stores and catalogues. But since the early 1970s every attempt to find a family successor has run into problems.

Eton-educated John Moores II resigned as deputy chairman in 1971 after policy disputes with his father. Sir John's nephew was then groomed for the job but died in a car crash soon after. His brother David, involved in another accident just five months later, lost all interest in the business.

The succession then passed to Sir John's younger brother, Peter. It was, by all accounts, a disaster. In his three years as chairman profits plunged from £49 million to £11.5 million. Though recession played its part in the profits collapse, Sir John returned to resume control of the business. Retiring again, at 89, in 1984 he introduced a non-family chairman but that did not work and the family split over the succession. Peter wanted the chairmanship again but this was against the wishes of the family.

In the event a compromise outside candidate was selected in Leonard van Geest, head of the eponymous fruit importing firm.

Hutchings: a gun for hire.

Few of the 1980s entrepreneurs have survived and prospered in the harsher climate of the 1990s. Greg Hutchings, the chief executive of the Tomkins industrial group, has. This might endear him to Lord Hanson as a potential successor. It would be a familiar turf for Hutchings, who once worked at Hanson as a corporate planner, learning all he needed to know about takeovers and dealing with the City. It stood him in good stead in building Tomkins from a £6 million group in 1983 to a £600 million mini-Hanson today.

An intensely competitive character, Hutchings certainly has the steel and brains for the job. He did an MBA at Aston University, after a series of jobs ranging from labouring to being a construction consultant and running a folk club. His energy is formidable. At the age of 44 he still plays hockey for Richmond.

Relative success at Sainsbury.

The small dairy shop founded by John James and Mary Sainsbury in 1869 has grown into one of the world's largest grocery chains under the canny stewardship of three generations.

Lord Sainsbury, grandson of the founder and another John, joined the business in 1950, becoming chairman in 1969. Though Stowe and Oxford educated, "Mr John" had to start on the bacon counter, working his way up from prime cuts to the more elevated role of prime mover. This practical grounding in retail characterises his management style. He is a hands-on boss, reputed to be fanatical about details and formidable when things go awry.

David Sainsbury, his cousin and heir apparent, is less autocratic but no less able. A product of Cambridge and Columbia Business School, he joined Sainsbury's work study department in 1963 and 10 years later, as newly appointed finance director, masterminded the process of going public. In 1987 he was made deputy chairman and, working in conjunction with two joint managing directors, assumed part of Lord Sainsbury's executive responsibilities.

A quiet man with a strong social conscience, "Mr David" has dipped into his enormous personal wealth for more than one philanthropic cause and, in its heyday, was sugar daddy to the Social Democratic Party.

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