Sir John Harvey-Jones MBE (16 April 1924 – 9 January 2008) was an English businessman. He was the chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries from 1982 to 1987. He was best known by the public for his BBC television show, Troubleshooter, in which he advised struggling businesses.
Sir John Harvey-Jones
|Born||16 April 1924|
Hackney, London, England, UK
|Died||9 January 2008 (aged 83)|
Hereford, Herefordshire, England, UK
|Years of service||1937–1956|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Other work||Company director, television presenter, author and university chancellor|
John Henry Harvey-Jones was born in Hackney, London, but spent most of his early childhood in Dhar, India, where his father, Mervyn Stockton Harvey-Jones (né Harvey), a former Captain in the Indian Army and bank employee, was guardian and tutor to a teenage maharajah. He was shipped back to Britain at age six to attend a prep school at Deal, Kent. He entered Dartmouth Royal Naval College at age 13.
Harvey-Jones joined Dartmouth Royal Naval College as a cadet in 1937, and in 1940, at the age of 16, he joined HMS Diomede as a midshipman. The next two ships that he served with, HMS Ithuriel and HMS Quentin, were sunk by enemy action. Harvey-Jones went on to join the submarine service in 1942, and received his first command at age 24.
With the end of World War II, Harvey-Jones went to the University of Cambridge to learn Russian in six months and joined Naval Intelligence as an interpreter. He married Mary Bignell in 1947, and he commanded the Russian intelligence section under the guise of the "British Baltic Fishery Protection Service", which used two ex-German E-boats for gathering clandestine intelligence on the Soviet Baltic Fleet. Rising to the rank of lieutenant-commander, Harvey-Jones was awarded a military MBE in 1952 for his work in Naval Intelligence, although his citation stated that the award was for "fishery protection duties in the Baltic".
Refused permission by the Royal Navy to spend more time with his wife and daughter Gaby, who had contracted polio, he resigned his commission in 1956 and joined Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) on Teesside as a junior training manager. In 1973, at age 49, he was promoted to sit on the main board of directors. In April 1982, he became chairman of ICI, only the second split-career man and non-chemist to reach the top.
Mentored in part by John Adair, Harvey-Jones saw his responsibilities to both stockholders and employees as "making a profit out of the markets where the market is". He maintained a firm belief in "speed rather than direction", on the assumption that "once travelling a company can veer and tack towards the ultimate objective." Thus, at the business level he cut non-profit making and what he saw as non-core businesses, so that at board level he could concentrate on putting more power in fewer hands "to reduce the number of those who can say 'no' and increase the motivation of those who can say 'yes'", maintaining that "there are no bad troops, only bad leaders". After only 30 months in the job, having cut the UK workforce by one third, he had doubled the price of ICI shares and turned a loss into a one billion pound profit.
According to one newspaper, it was the BBC's Troubleshooter series, first broadcast in 1990, that made Harvey-Jones the most famous industrialist since Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It ran to five series and several specials in the 1990s and also won him a BAFTA award. His advice was at times controversial – in particular he was critical of the Morgan Motor Company, which some argue was vindicated, as it is still trading successfully today.
Harvey-Jones was also chairman of the Burns-Anderson Group plc, a conglomerate spanning merchant banking, financial services, recruitment, marketing and business services, and stockbroking.
Between 1986 and 1991, Harvey-Jones served as the second Chancellor of the University of Bradford. A commemorative painting exists in the University of Bradford collection, and Harvey-Jones also agreed to sit for sculptor Jon Edgar for a terracotta portrait at Clyro in July 2004.
Described by The Guardian as one of the best-known British advocates of Transcendental Meditation, Harvey-Jones said, "I don't make a drama out of a crisis. If I gave it up now, my wife would leave me." Having lived most of his post-retirement period in Ross-on-Wye, he died in his sleep after a long illness, aged 83, at the Hereford County Hospital.
Baron Wilson of Rievaulx
| Chancellor of the University of Bradford
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Troubleshooter was a British reality television series, produced and shown by the BBC, focusing on experienced business leaders visiting and advising small and often struggling UK businesses.
It first aired in 1990 with Sir John Harvey-Jones, formerly of ICI. After the series won a BAFTA, Harvey-Jones decided that he didn't want to become a television personality, after one newspaper called him the "most famous industrialist since Isambard Kingdom Brunel."The greatest achievement of the Troubleshooter programmes was to make business management a popular discussion subject in the homes of millions of British people, and to provide a role model for people wanting to enter business.A follow up series titled Troubleshooter - Back in Business aired in the year 2000 and saw Sir John return to companies featured in the original series from a decade before. In that time there had been a number of changes, Tri-ang toys had been unable to turn its fortunes around and its UK factory had been demolished. Morgan Motor Company, where previously Sir John had encountered great resistance, had in fact made many of the changes he suggested.
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Chairmen of Imperial Chemical Industries