A tale of two Yorkshiremen

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The Independent Online
Stanley Metcalfe, 60, is a Yorkshireman. But any further resemblance between the chairman of Ranks Hovis McDougall and Huddersfield-born Lord Hanson, his new adversary as from yesterday, is not immediately apparent.

An affable man with a taste for the role of raconteur, Mr Metcalfe has worked for what is now RHM since leaving Oxford in 1959. There he won a cricket blue, enough to earn him a brief career in Yorkshire's second eleven, having previously spent two years in the Duke of Wellington's regiment as a self-confessed 'pretty idle officer'.

By contrast with the normally sharp-suited and expensively betied Lord Hanson, Mr Metcalfe affects a more old-fashioned sartorial appearance.

Frequently he can be seen at City occasions sporting a solid Yorkshire worsted suit, grey woolly socks and lace-up brogues beneath a crumpled mac and brown felt hat that have both seen better days.

In his prime, Lord Hanson was linked with famous actresses.

Mr Metcalfe acually married one, Sarah Harter, and they are nearing their silver wedding anniversary.

She met him at a friend's house after hearing that he worked for Rank - the company that made films, not bread.

Mr Metcalfe's progress at RHM was scarcely meteoric. It was 20 years before he got on to the RHM main board, becoming managing director in 1981.

The subsequent decade has been far from uneventful for him.

He is credited with effecting a dramatic reduction in RHM's bread-baking capacity since taking charge and for slimming down a sprawling portfolio of interests.

During that time he has had no fewer than three threatening shareholders on his register and has already fought off one full- blown bid before Hanson sprang yesterday morning.

His feat in getting the pounds 1.7bn bid from Goodman Fielder Wattie, the antipodean food group, referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1988 seemed to many a triumph of political lobbying.

Twice he has counter-attacked companies with unfriendly stakes in RHM, including a counter-bid for Goodman Fielder.

So beneath his air of slightly crumpled affability Mr Metcalfe, who took over as chairman of RHM in 1989, clearly has his share of Yorkshire grit, which Lord Hanson, for one, will surely recognise.

With RHM's back to the wall, he will need all that and more in the coming weeks and months.

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