Tribute paid to TV business guru

TRIBUTE has been paid to an industrialist and TV business guru by the East Anglians he helped.Sir John Harvey-Jones died peacefully in his sleep, aged 83, after a long illness.

TRIBUTE has been paid to an industrialist and TV business guru by the East Anglians he helped.

Sir John Harvey-Jones died peacefully in his sleep, aged 83, after a long illness.

He became a household name in the 1990s with his popular Troubleshooter series, where he would advise firms, including Suffolk brewery Tolly Cobbold and Essex fruit juice makers Copella, on what to do.

His part in the series followed an illustrious business career, most notably with ICI, which has a base in Stowmarket.

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He was chairman of the company from 1982 to 1987, presiding over the period in 1984 when it became the first British company to post more than £1billion in full-year pre-tax profits. He was described by present ICI chief executive John McAdam as “a legend” within the company.

The Peake family at The Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf Club and Spa, formerly owners of Copella, paid tribute to Sir John, and said they would all miss him greatly.

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“Sir John Harvey-Jones came into our lives with the first BBC TV Troubleshooter series in 1989. He went on to make two more programmes with us over the next 10 years, advising us at different turning points of the business, and as a family we became very fond of him,” said Tamara Unwin, a director of the Stoke by Nayland family firm and one of the Peake sisters.

“He was above all a warm, charismatic man with incredible intuition. He spent the first day we met him walking with us around the fruit farm, Copella factory and golf club, chatting to staff of all levels, and seemed to gain an immense understanding of the whole business from that one day,” she said.

She recalled one memorable occasion when he took to the dance floor with their mother, Devora Peake.

“He also had a tremendous sense of fun and a twinkle in his eye,” said Tamara.

“He loved dancing, as did our mother, and one of our lasting memories will be of him expertly whirling her around the room at a charity ball which we held at the golf club when he was guest speaker.”

Susanna Rendall, now group managing director of the hotel, golf club and spa and of Boxford (Suffolk) Farms Ltd, said: “He had a great respect for people who were totally committed to their businesses and was enormously supportive of our family, encouraging us to take calculated risks.

“For example, he felt that expanding the golf club to include a hotel, spa and conference centre was the obvious thing to do, to share this beautiful area and maximise people's enjoyment of it.

“In fact, he offered to open the new areas for us and the inaugural ceremony was filmed and included in the last of our three programmes.”

She added: “When our mother, Devora Peake, died in 1999, just after the production of the last Troubleshooter programme, Sir John contacted us and said that we should ring him anytime we wanted advice - he was only a 'phone call away, and that meant a great deal to us at such a difficult time.”

In the series he also advised Ipswich brewery Tolly Cobbold's joint managing directors Bob Wales and the late Brian Cowie.

“I got to know him very well,” said Mr Wales. “He was one of the special people.”

After Tolly Cobbold featured in the original series, Sir John returned a few years later for a follow-up programme.

Mr Wales remembered “a lovely man, very generous, the epitome of a perfect gentleman really, obviously a very strong-headed businessman”.

“He always called us his favourite brewery. I used to send him a newsletter and a case of our latest beer, which I know he enjoyed,” he said.

Ipswich Borough Council James Hehir said he was “the ideal person” to present the Troubleshooter series.

“He was a great enthusiast, and one of the things he was enthusiastic about was beer, so visiting Tolly Cobbold was a real labour of love,” he said.

“I'll never forget his face when the pumps were turned around and Tollyshooter ale was unveiled. People think businessmen are hard-hearted but that made him very emotional.”

Mr Wales recalled how they had a special “Tollyshooter” tie made for him which he “wore with pride”. He last saw him about six years ago, he said.

Mr Wales sold Tolly Cobbold about six years ago and went to work for Ridleys, the brewery that bought it, and was with them for three years.

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