Baron White Of Hull

Gordon White was born in Yorkshire in 1923 and was educated at De Aston School in Lincolnshire. After serving with the Special Operations Executive in the Far East from 1942 to 1946, he started his business career in the family publishing firm. He and James Hanson began their partnership on the board of Oswald Tillotson, a company which sold and distributed vehicles. It merged with the Wiles group in 1964 and the following year Hanson became chairman of the group and White deputy chairman. The Hanson Trust was founded in 1969 and four years later Gordon White moved to the United States and founded Hanson Industries, becoming chairman in 1983. In 1979 he received the KBE in recognition of services to British commercial and community interest in the USA. He has been married twice and has a son and two daughters. His interests include flying helicopters and horse-racing. I interviewed him in 1990 and he died in 1995.

images.jpg

Was your childhood a happy one and did your early years in the North of England stand you in good stead?

My formative years were very happy. I had two brothers and a close family life. My father was away a lot of the time because he had a publishing business that involved him travelling around England. We were ten or eleven before my mother found she could no longer cope with us and sent us off to boarding school. My mother and father were a devoted couple. Once married, they lived together all of their lives and died within two years of each other. I got on well with my father. He was a wonderful man, a great character, but we never got anything for nothing. If we wanted pocket money, we had to earn it. If we played cards, he would win our pocket money from us and not give it back. I was a terrible rebel in my schooldays, and after I set the school on fire I was asked to leave. I would have gone to another school, but my father said, ‘If you can get a job, you’re leaving. I won’t send you to another one.’ So the only job I ever had to look for in my life was as an office boy. I worked for six months and then asked for an increase in salary. They didn’t give it to me, so I left and joined my father in his advertising business. I was always a rebel against authority, always looking for reasons why things had to be done, and if the reasons didn’t seem to make sense, I didn’t see why I should do them. But I was always very positive. I think perhaps one of the major influences in my life was working in my father’s advertising business, and then the war broke out and I went off in to the services. I was away for four years in an organization known as Special Operations Executive, a clandestine outfit. I stayed on in Siam after the war and didn’t get back to England till the beginning of 1947. So, by the time I returned, the war had already been over for about two years. There were no bands playing, no welcoming garlands, no rejoicing, no feeling of a conquering hero returning. I arrived on a dull day in Liverpool and it was quite a shock to come back and find everything so dismal. My father’s business had gone. There was nothing to sell and therefore nothing to advertise. He’d started another business making toys, but that became moribund. So I restarted his advertising business, and that rolled along for a number of years.

Did you know, as a young man, that you were going to succeed?

I did really. I knew that I wanted to make a lot of money. I think I was motivated primarily by that need. I was a very romantic individual, steeped in the whole British thing – Bulldog Drummond, romance, knights in armour. The whole of a certain type of civilized living was exemplified in that kind of book. That’s what I thought I would achieve. Money was important because, if you wanted fast cars, if you wanted a great lifestyle, you had to pay for it, and the only way you could pay for it was with money.

The gossip columnists continue to write about the film stars you escorted back in the 1950s, which rather suggests you were well off by then.

I was. I had a lot of fun, because beautiful movie stars are usually very lonely people. I knew a lot about the film industry and had started a company called Artists Personal Appearances. I had also won an air race and become quite famous in my own way as a pilot, and that led to an advertising campaign using me as the star. They asked me if I would do a number of commercials with leading actresses. I met a lot of actresses, and after working hard for a period, I would take a holiday in the watering holes of the world and have fun. If one had been thinking about getting married, one might have found it rather difficult, but I wasn’t really interested in getting married at the time. I just loved being in the company of famous, beautiful women. It was very flattering to one’s ego. When I did get married, I couldn’t believe it as I came out of the church. There must have been sixty photographers as well as the television cameras. It was headline news. The most eligible bachelor in the world, I was called.

You left Britain in 1973 because of what you saw as the encroachment of socialist bias in government.

If someone had said to me in the summer of 1973 that I would soon leave England, emigrate to the United States and live in New York, I would have told them, ‘You had better go along and see your local shrink because you’re crazy.’ Until then I could never bear to be out of England for more than two weeks without getting homesick. I’d been to America many times, I’d travelled all over the world, but I’d always come back to England. It was going to war that made it like that for me. My father had been the first volunteer in Grimsby in the First World War and spent four years in the trenches in the Coldstream Guards. He was wounded seven times and lost three brothers. One of my own brothers was killed in the Second World War. The whole thing to me was what one had to give to England: the blood, sweat, toil and tears of Churchill’s promise to the British people. It appealed to me and I thought t hat this was the way it should be. When I came back, the fruits of victory were something I had anticipated, and they weren’t there. But I was young, enthusiastic and ambitious, and so I put up with the 2 oz. of butter and 4 oz. of meat a week, and the fact that you couldn’t get this and that, and the strikes, and the ghastly winter of 1947. All of those things would get better or so I thought. But as we rolled on from government to government, Conservative and Labour, nothing changed. A touch on the accelerator, a bang on the brake. The economy never got going.  During all this time I remained optimistic about the future of England, but finally it came to that period in the 1970s when we were facing the prospect of another socialist regime. James Hanson and I put together a deal to merge with Bowater, and the Office of Fair Trading stopped it. In other words, the entrepreneur was not to be allowed to operate within the economic climate of Britain. At that time, you may recall, Edward Heath came up with the statement about the unacceptable face of capitalism. And what was the unacceptable face of capitalism? Was it Mr Tiny Rowland’s having a house on the company? Having read up the subject now, I realise that what we have today is radical. Margaret Thatcher is not a conservative, she’s a radical. And she is determined to change the paternalism that has ruled and ruined this country. You have to create wealth. Unless you create wealth you can’t spend it. Communism doesn’t work, socialism doesn’t work, and in my view, liberalism doesn’t work either. The Japanese will eventually prove that they can become a superpower by growing to be the richest nation in the world, without even an army, because capitalism works. There’s no doubt about it. In this country, as happened to Lester Piggot, you get arrested if you have more than £35 in your pocket. What sort of a country were we living in where you could have Customs officials stopping you to see how much money you had on you? Our profits the year I went to America were £8 million. The first thing I did was employ the Economist intelligence unit to do a paper to find out the exact value of the exchange control regulations. The regulations turned out to be absolutely valueless. In fact they were restricting the growth of the country. I turned copies of that report over to Harold Wilson as well as to Margaret Thatcher. That summer of 1973 I felt crushed by the Heath government. They had unlocked the door of the banks, lowered interest rates to some ridiculous level, and shovelled out money. Then the crash came. At fifty-one years of age I suddenly found that all my shares were practically worthless, that the market had collapsed. So I left.

You described yourself as ‘ridiculously patriotic’. Didn’t that make it hard for you to leave England in the middle of such a crisis?

It wasn’t a crisis. It was a weakness: the abdication of the right to manage. People had abdicated that right and the whole system was negative. They had become so used to saying you couldn’t have this, or that was rationed, or you had to be on a three-year waiting list to buy a motor car. National servicemen, when they were fighting a war in Korea, used to see Japan, when they went on rest and recuperation, the Japanese driving around in cars which they couldn’t buy. The habit of mind became permanent.

Legend has it that you arrived in New York with $3,000 and turned it into a vast fortune, but wasn’t the Hanson trust already an established company in Britain?

We were a tiny little nothing: £8 million pre-tax profit. When I arrived in the United States and went to see my first bank manager there, he kept me waiting a long time. He’d never heard of me. The English were a joke. If you make the mistake of taking sterling travellers’ cheques, you couldn’t get them cashed in a bank. No one realises how Britain at that time was gone, finished. We were considered a tourist country. I couldn’t borrow money on the balance sheet or bring money out of Britain, but I was very lucky in that the first deal I ever did there I did on paper. A miracle. I found a business which they didn’t want cash for immediately. It suddenly became highly successful because of the OPEC crisis, when the product went through the roof. The business cost $30 million to be paid over two years, and the first year’s pre-tax profit was $17 million. I admit I was lost when I first went to America. But I believed in and was steeped in integrity. When somebody asked me how I was going to pay back the money I’d borrowed, I was actually affronted and said, ‘I always pay back the money I borrow.’ I said it with such conviction that it became a bit of a legend. James Hanson and I both think identically about the business of borrowing money and paying it back. We were brought up the same way – both Yorkshiremen. I even used to believe naively that you could do a deal with a handshake.

Would you have an absolutely laissez-faire economy or should the state take some responsibility in certain areas of social welfare?

I believe there is a major responsibility in a capitalist system for it to provide for the mentally handicapped, the old, the crippled, the disadvantaged. I believe that the classless society is obviously the right way to go, but I believe that the strong, the more intelligent and the more commercial will rise to the top. It’s frightening to see a welfare system that can be abused by people who don’t want to work, a system that will create areas of no-go, a system of misery that creates the muggers, and robbers and killers. I don’t think you can lay down a line and say that’s the fault of the rich, therefore the rich should throw money at those problems. You get young active people on welfare because the system will pay them. Right now the major problem in the United States is one-parent families. On CBS they interviewed black women who were mothers of fatherless children. Each child represented an additional welfare payment. But success does carry with it an enormous responsibility. I believe that the people who amass great wealth, flaunt it but give nothing back to the community are wrong. I believe that the more wealth you accumulate the more power you accumulate, and the more responsibility. I would call myself a generous man in this respect, though when it comes to socialist ideas, I don’t believe that socialism has a chance. It’s unnatural. In my view, it’s an invention of the intellectually arrogant, and intellectuals do have an enormous arrogance. They believe they can think for the rest of us. The Labour party is 50 per cent working class people and 50 per cent intellectuals. But they have done nothing to change the face of England in terms of providing for a society that is going to move upwards. Out of this little country was created the biggest empire the world has ever seen, and colonialism, as produced by the British, was not what the popular image of colonialism in the United States would have it be. American ignorance about world affairs can sometimes be devastatingly profound. The country which united under the British – India – in fact produced railways, universities, schools, a civil service, but it couldn’t cope with the religious problems that existed at Independence. Then you had the Moslems running one way and the Hindus running the other. It was one of the biggest slaughters in history, with something like three million people being killed. That was what happened when the British scuttled out of India under American pressure. They’re trying to do the same in South Africa right now. They would hand the country over to the blacks to rule it without any possible opportunity for them to create, over the years of evolution, the type of people who could rule South Africa. Should they just take over because they have black skins? You’ve also got racism among the blacks. The Zulus are not going to agree to be ruled by another black race. It’s an example of the confusion which surrounds the American desire to have so-called democracy. Where does democracy exist in Africa, outside South Africa? Every other African country is ruled by a one-party state. They immediately wipe out the opposition, like the Nigerians did when they were slaughtering the Ibos.

So how would you solve the South African problem?

What they should do is give every black man over fifty a vote. That way they could slowly carry the country over a period of years into an evolution of one man, one vote. But as soon as you give all the blacks a vote, they will immediately vote on the colour of the skin. They’re not politically intelligent enough to say, well, just a second, we’ve got a choice here – this white man might be a good guy. They just vote black. Politically Africa is perhaps two hundred years behind South America, and South America has a long way to go.

You said in one interview with Alan Whicker in 1985 that you felt that business was like boarding a ship, robbing all the men and raping all the women.

I never said that. At least, not in that context. Undoubtedly there is a tremendous thrill in the chase, the fight. It’s a war to win control of a company, a war in the market place. And you can be hurt financially if you make mistakes. I’ve always believed that one should be ruthless in decision but compassionate in execution. People talk about chucking people out and closing factories down. Absolute rubbish. We pay high compensation and severance pay. Life is all about winning, and you can consider that you’ve won every time you cross the street without getting run down by a vehicle; that you’ve survived.

But haven’t you generated a lot of hostility in your remarkable career?

I feel very strongly about companies that have allowed themselves to become quaint, who have allowed themselves to be overtaken by nepotism and bureaucracy, by committees they’ve created themselves. Today Hanson PLC is unique in its lack of protocol. There are no politics in this company, no intrigue. It is wide open. There is no one within the company who can’t get us on the telephone if they want to talk to James Hanson or myself. I’m very accessible.I would claim that we predators have done a tremendous job, not only in this country but in the United States as well, because a company cannot, by and large, be God. You find the most extraordinary things when you take over a company. You cannot believe the departments that get created. Sometimes you take over a company with 250 people and find it needs only them. Imagine the dead hand of that bureaucracy. We’re not asset strippers. Absolutely not. What we’ve done is sell off divisions. Selling off a division is part of the operational philosophy. We believe that we are guardians of a portfolio of businesses. If someone else can see, in one of our companies, value in excess of what we can see in it, then it’s worth a lot more to them and I sell. That’s not asset stripping. We’ve sold many businesses in our time, and all of them have flourished as they’ve gone on to better homes. Asset stripping would happen if you had a factory making goods and decided you could get more money for the factory than for the business; in which case you fire all the people, strip out the equipment and flog the building. I’ve been told I’m a legend in the United States for having, within fifteen years, created a company worth $6 billion from nothing. That is to my mind one of the greatest compliments that can be paid to the capitalist system. Hanson’s has a solid background. It’s not a get-rich-quick organization. Both Hanson and I are primarily industrialists. I was brought up at ground-floor level to run a company. When I worked for my father, I sometimes had to sweep the floors.

In your view, is the stick and carrot technique basic to management?

There is a lot more to it than the carrot and the stick. There has to be enormous satisfaction and happiness in going to work. You have to feel happy about dealing with your colleagues. You mustn’t be frustrated by bureaucracy. There must be an atmosphere. We had a dinner the other night in the Hyde Park Hotel for our American and British executives, and the atmosphere there was so good, I wish I’d had it on video. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Our corporate lawyer, the head of our legal department in America did a humorous piece on each of our British executives, and it had everybody in fits of laughter. It was very irreverent, but that’s the spirit of the company. I don’t believe in the stick. I believe that you put a man in charge of his own destiny. That is the difference between Hanson and any other company. We say to a man running a division, ‘You have to come to us for your capital expenditure, and we in turn want to see your budgets. First of all, you will be paid the salary for the job, and then comes your incentivization. You are incentivized to produce a return on your capital, because your capital is under your control. Beyond that, it’s your business, you run it.’ If we were to use the carrot and stick and say, ‘We’ll give you some more money if you do well but if you don’t do well we’ll fire you’, that would produce nothing. The American system is, of course, very tough. And American workers are very pragmatic about it. They don’t expect a free lunch.

You never visit factories or businesses you control.

I believe that the manager is in charge of his business. He doesn’t need the chairman. The manager should run the business as if it were his own and make it work for him. I’m just there to support him. If you take away from a man the right to manage, he is able to abdicate his responsibility. It might not be a bad thing if I visited factories, said hello and showed my face, but really it isn’t going to make them any more efficient. I’m a distant corporate figure, which is why I don’t insist that all of our divisional companies have a Hanson name on them.

I understand that there is a low proportion of American investors at Hanson.

We’ve got the largest number of American investors of any industrial company of our size in the world, so the opposite is true. We’ve been floated on the American market for only three years, and nearly 20 per cent of our shared are owned in the United States. ICI have been selling their shares in America for over twenty years and only about 7 per cent of their shares are owned in America. I believe that ultimately we will be owned 50-50 by the United States and United Kingdom.

You must find lawyers’ fees a terrible irritant, given the way they feel about top-heavy management.

I think they’re obscene. I feel even more strongly about legal fees in the United States, and the merchant banking fees too. They are absolutely ridiculous. They bear no relation to the amount of work done. I believe that one of the great disasters of the United States is the legal system. It’s totally wrong for lawyers to follow ambulances. It’s totally wrong for lawyers to be able to work on a contingency basis and take law suits in order to get money for themselves. When I took over one company, Smith Corona, it involved a long legal battle. At the end of the day we got their legal bills, banking fees and everything. It came to $50 million. Our legal bills and banking fees were $12 million.

I have heard it said that your greatest ambition is to buy back in the United States the amount lost as a consequence of the Second World War.

I wanted to feel that Britain would once again be a major economic presence in the United States. But we’ve got it now – not just the 20 per cent, which we had before the war, but as the biggest foreign investor in the United States. Britain is bigger than the Japanese, bigger than anybody.

What is it you so admire about the United States compared to Britain?

I admire the environment of freedom enormously. I could never have come from America to Britain and built a business of the size I did in fifteen years, nor could I have gone to Germany or France and done it.

To what do you attribute the success of the Japanese?

The Japanese discovered the weakness of the major companies, first of all in electronics. They saw that they could copy things, but then they realized that, if they did a bit more work, they could make them better. The television business is a perfect example of the manufacturer’s abdication of his rights to supply the customer. Here the thing to do for years was to rent your television set. Why did you rent your television set? Well, if it broke down they’d come and fix it? The Japanese entered into this market with the Sony Twinatone, half the size of the first colour television, created a network of dealers and guaranteed the sets. If anybody bought a television set back, it was exchanged and Sony picked up the bill. The Japanese forte was to spot loopholes and exploit them; and to listen to the customer.

I know how much you admire Mrs Thatcher, but what was it you so admire about her?

She had to change a whole way of thinking. Lots of people, even in the Conservative party, were very against wealth. The ‘us and them’ syndrome existed in the Conservative party as much as it did in the Labour party. Both parties conducted government in a paternal fashion. Macmillan, in his last run for election said, ‘You have never had it so good.’ He didn’t say ‘We have never had it so good.’ When Mrs Thatcher took over the union barons didn’t want democracy. They had the lads. I’ve been addressed by a major union leader who said, ‘The lads will never agree to this.’ The lads? Who were these lads? Some of them were seventy years old. Margaret Thatcher needed to tackle the grass roots. I admire her for seeing the arrogance of intellectuals who believe they should tell you how to live. There again, she doesn’t believe in big government. If you think about the state of Britain when she took over – the unions were totally in control of the country. Harold Wilson at one point considered running the country with the help of the unions, they used to turn up at 10 Downing Street. But Margaret Thatcher stuck to her guns. She would not be deviated. To secure our economic future, we’re going to have to work a lot harder and follow the dictates laid down by Margaret Thatcher, which are basic common sense: don’t spend more money than you’ve got, and you have to do a day’s work for a day’s pay. When it comes to the next General Election, I’m no prophet, but I can’t see that clown Kinnock getting in. He reminds me of an old English comedian called Tommy Trinder. He’s just not prime minister material. I think the Labour party is totally and utterly discredited. It’s been proven socialism doesn’t work. Even nationalized medicine isn’t working. They’d be far better off if they pelted money into private medicine, gave everybody insurance and commercial clinics were built. I was talking recently to a professor of medicine at a major English hospital who has been there fifteen years. He told me that, when he first started, the administrative staff in his department numbered six, and now there were eighty-five. The drones of bureaucracy had multiplied.

David Steel once suggested it could be thought that the fact that the Hanson bid for Imperial was allowed to go ahead was a reward for helping Mrs Thatcher over the Westland Helicopter affair. Why did you buy so many shares at well over the market price?

David Steel is absolutely full of rubbish. I’ve never found in my experience that there has been any help from the government. The only government that has a certain power in this way is the US government. You can approach a congressman and a senator, and he has influence, but I don’t think a British politician, by and large, has much influence. I’m a helicopter pilot. I no more wanted to see Westland go to the French than the man in the moon. Nothing to do with the political aspect of it all. Westland was a British company, and I don’t believe that the French would have had Westland grow. That was my opinion and I still believe it. Mr Steel is full of baloney.

Most Englishmen who have been sent to public school, including those who are heterosexual, don’t actually enjoy the company of women, but prefer the company of other men.

I guess I’m the same as all the rest of the Englishmen. I prefer the company of men. There are so many different aspects of a man’s life that women just don’t seem able to get involved in, like sport. Dangerous things have always appealed to me. All my flying career was littered with incidences of near death, and on the whole it’s not easy for a woman to relate to danger the way a man does.

You once said you loved beautiful women, but they had to be achievers too. What counts as achievement in the case of a woman?

A woman can be a marvellous mother, for example. I admire Princess Diana enormously as a woman and a mother. I admire Margaret Thatcher enormously for what she has achieved in what has always been considered a man’s world. I admire a woman who does anything exceptionally well. If you see the Queen Mother across a crowded room she radiates warmth. On the subject of what attracts me to a woman, I suppose one has to say that a beautiful woman is a challenge. Men are afraid of beautiful women. Did you know that? It’s quite extraordinary. Every man has his type. Playboy was created on big boobs so obviously you have to believe that the world’s men adore big breasts. Quite frankly, that’s never what’s appealed to me. During my days in the theatrical world, I always admired a great actress. If a woman was not only beautiful but talented, then there was an attraction. But the most important thing to me is femininity. There is enormous sensuality in certain women. I once saw a black girl walking down Piccadilly, and I didn’t know she was black, but from the back, I’ve never seen a walk like that in my life. She barely touched the ground as she walked. It was the most sensual thing I had ever seen. It wasn’t an exaggerated swing of the hips or anything like that, but a flow. I’m not attracted to women who are highly competitive and have lost their femininity  because of their competitive nature.

Are you sympathetic to the feminist movement?

I deplore the feminist movement. These women are crazy. The whole lot of them are absolutely crackers. Women are being destroyed by the feminist movement. All male chauvinist pigs have mothers. It’s the mother who brings the boy up to be a chauvinist, who says open the door, carry this, stand back, ladies first. My mother brought me up to believe that, if I was in an aeroplane which was about to crash and there was only one parachute, I should give the parachute to the girl and go down with the plane – exactly what happened with the Titanic. The men went down with the ship. The band played, and the officers stood by with pistols in case men tried to get in the lifeboats ahead of women and children. Men used to respect women, but the way a young man treats a woman today is as his equal. Do they stand up and give their seats to a woman? Do they take their hats off in an elevator? Of course they don’t. All men are led by their cock. A man will lie, cheat and steal to get a woman into bed. He’s now discovering that all he has to say is, ‘Do you want a fuck, my place or your place? You want to argue about it? Forget it I’ll find someone else.’ After the war, the most difficult girls to get into bed were American, because American mothers brought their daughters up to believe they should be virgins and that, if they ever gave their body, they’d hate it. Now Cosmopolitan magazine tells you how a woman should have multiple orgasms, how she should do this, do that, do the other. It’d full of bullshit. Now they’ve got to find the man to give them all of this. I would certainly be considered a male chauvinist. I believe it’s my duty to protect women, I really do, and I’m quite sure I would have gone down with the ship too. The thing I object to very strongly is, of course, the token woman who is forced on people. People say we must have a woman for vice president, so they pull a woman out of the block and she becomes a token vice president. Her qualifications are zero, but she is a woman. This is an insult to women. The secret of my success with women? I don’t know. I love to spoil women. I appreciate women. I respect women. I never treat a woman lightly. I’ve got enormous respect for women, and I think that probably shows. I’m thoughtful, and I think I’m romantic.

Would you agree that, when one is younger, one likes to go out with older women, but as one grows older, one wants to go out with younger women?

Absolutely. There’s a book called The Jenifer Syndrome about why older men are attracted to younger girls, and why young homosexuals are attracted to older homosexuals. It’s a question of youth and age. The older man is tremendously flattered by the admiration a girl shows him, and in addition is in a position to use his great experience to teach her, in many ways, many different things. I’ve got a very young girlfriend at the moment, and I’m motivated by her in the most incredible fashion. I’ve just found one of the biggest challenges of my life, which is getting fit. This particular girl happens to be very much interested in the body, and what you put into your body. So it starts off with food, and the second part of it is exercise. Years ago there was ever any need for a man to worry about his body. But we’re in the 1990s now, and it does matter. My feeling was, God it’s impossible, I could never get myself into physical condition, I couldn’t do it. I smoked, drank, put lots of butter on the bread. But then, two years ago, I stopped smoking, cut my liquor intake to almost nothing, and stopped taking butter, sugar and salt. Then I started to work out and got myself an exercise teacher. My girlfriend didn’t make me do it, but the challenge was there.

You have been divorced twice. Do you see the failure of your marriages as in any way the price of success?

Yes. The ending of my last marriage was the price of success. My wife had a terribly tough time. My lifestyle, in the course of the build-up of my American interests, was just a nightmare. The hours, the travelling, the whole thing. We lived in a hotel room for a year or eighteen months. The whole enterprise started in a room in the Hotel Pierre, till they sent a lawyer’s letter to stop me blocking their switchboard with telephone calls. I have always made a point of having my children with me in the holidays during the formative years. Not any longer with my two girls but still by and large with my son. I was divorced when he was four, and he is now fifteen, and I would say that, during the intervening years, eighty per cent of holidays he spent with me. Obviously I would have like to spend more time with them. As for remarrying, I don’t know. That’s a question I couldn’t even begin to answer. I’m uncertain whether marriage is as important today as it was when I was a young man.

Apart from your business interests, what has most caught your imagination in life?

I would love to have been a major figure in the sporting world. There is something fascinating about somebody being the best in the world at something. All my life I’ve been attracted to something that has a large element of danger. When I flew I challenged the weather practically all the time. I was a perfect fool. The challenge of beating something as a compulsion. I’ll never forget my brother drove out to the airfield at Borough near Hull, where he ran into the chief test pilot of Blackman aircraft and told him he’d come to meet me. The man said, ‘Not even that idiot brother of yours would be flying today.’

What might you have taken up as a career if your business interests hadn’t prospered?

If I’d had any nerve, if I’d had real courage. I would never have gone into business at all. I would have been an actor. I was once offered a screen test but didn’t have the courage to do it. I was afraid of failure. You see, I looked right. I was a very good-looking guy when I was younger.

Comments are closed.