A tough cookie with no plans to stop moving

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir Ernest Harrison of Racal has had quite a week. The lively 70-year-old entrepreneur has attended Vodafone's results on Tuesday, Racal Electronics' figures on Wednesday, Chubb Security's on Thursday, the Oaks horse race meeting yesterday and plans to see the Epsom Derby today.

Sir Ernie's combined salary from his three businesses totals pounds 867,000, and that doesn't include generous share options arrangements. His favourite way of spending it is horses.

Sir Ernie's most valuable creation, Vodafone, of which he is non-executive chairman, sponsors both the Oaks and the Derby. The Hackney-born businessman also owns a stable of horses himself, one of which once came third in the Derby, although he is not entering any horses today.

Despite all this ceaseless activity, Sir Ernie shows no sign of slowing up, and has no plans to retire. Still executive chairman of Racal and Chubb, he leads from the front. As one subordinate put it yesterday: "We're all running around trying to keep up with him."

The man has also earned a reputation as a tough cookie who doesn't suffer fools gladly. Famously he saw off two attempted takeovers of Racal, by Cable & Wireless in 1988 and Williams Holdings in 1991.

Sir Ernie also masterminded Racal's support of Camelot, the much-debated National Lottery organiser. Racal still owns 22.5 per cent of Camelot.

Together with SIS satellite racing service, gambling contributes a quarter of Racal's profits. A far cry from defence electronics systems, for which Racal is probably best known. Critics may criticise Camelot for earning too high profits, but few in the City can fault Sir Ernie's feel for a good deal.

It has not all been plain sailing this week, however. Racal's shares fell after it reported a pounds 20m restructuring charge for getting the troubled data products division back into the black.