Spotlight On: Sir Brian Souter, founder and chief executive of Stagecoach

 

The buses man?

Well, that's where he began: having worked as a bus conductor to earn money as a student, before joining the accountants Arthur Andersen, Brian Souter and his sister, Ann Gloag, then used their father's £25,000 redundancy cheque to buy two buses in the 1980s when the Tories first started deregulating routes. By the time the company, Stagecoach, floated on the Stock Exchange in 1993 it was worth £130m. He then got stuck into the rail privatisations of the late 90s, winning the first private contract with his bid for South West Trains.

So why's he back in the news again?

Stagecoach's latest move is to tie-up with Network Rail on its South West Trains commuter route into Waterloo, meaning a single team will be responsible for train and track on the Wessex route.

Isn't that how the railways worked pre-privatisation?

Yes.

Any other benefit here for Stagecoach?

The company may hope such initiatives will boost its chance to win more rail franchising deals – Stagecoach has bid for three of them.

So rail is still proving profitable for Sir Brian?

Yup, Sir Brian has a 15 per cent stake in Stagecoach, giving him a windfall worth some £51m last year when the transport group unveiled its second huge cash handout in four years. The tycoon – who is a member of the evangelical Church of the Nazarene – has put millions back via his charitable trust administered by his social-worker wife, Betty. But coming only days after passengers were told regulated rail fares would rise by 8 per cent in 2012, the payout didn't go down well.

But he's used to controversy...

Sir Brian's £1m investment in a failed campaign for Scotland to keep Section 28, forbidding promoting homosexuality in schools, saw him come under heavy attack. The press particularly enjoyed the fact that a former Stagecoach director was arrested in a gay sex sting about the same time.

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