Sir Nigel Rudd is in the throes of achieving some kind of big business records.
One of Britain’s professional non-executive chairmen, he is currently involved in three headline making takeover deals.
Takeover No 1: glass makers Pilkington about to be taken over by Nippon Sheet Glass of Japan in a £1.8 billion deal. Sir Nigel is due to collect a windfall of £4 million when he gives up the chairmanship.
Takeover No 2: Pendragon, also chaired by Sir Nigel, is about to take control of the rival car dealer Reg Vardy.
Takeover No 3: Boots, the retailer where Sir Nigel is also chairman, has agreed a merger with Alliance UniChem.
Nigel Rudd was born in Derby in 1946. His early years were ones of genteel poverty and – surprisingly for those who know him now – great shyness.
He qualified as Britain’s youngest chartered accountant and after a short period as a company troubleshooter he became an entrepreneur, buying a small house-building company for £10,000 and making a £600,000 fortune from property deals by the time he was 36.
Instead of opting for the easy life, he and his partner bought Williams. He made his name – and a tremendous fortune – by aggressively building Williams into a conglomerate during the 80s. In 1991 Williams was demerged into Chubb and Kidde.
His presence in boardrooms became a reassurance for City analysts concerned about poor management. In 1994 he became chairman of East Midlands Electricity, where he is credited as the architect of the dramatic culture change. In 1995 he became non-executive chairman of Pilkington, the world famous glass company.
Knighted in 1996, he has since become a non-executive power player in the boardroom of many FTSE 100 companies
What his colleagues value is his ability to get straight to the heart of the matter. He is not distracted by peripheral issues. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to generate – and share – his vision. He leaves the implementation to others.
What he values is his ability to understand structure and – perhaps even more importantly – to understand people. ‘I’m very good with people,’ he says, ‘As a chairman you wander round and you just know how someone is reacting’ ‘People tell me things.’!
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