The business on...William McGrath, Chief Executive, Aga


The man who powers middle England?


More so than ever before, it appears. Aga Rangemaster, to give thecompany its full name, had a great 2010 it revealed yesterday, boosting profits from £500,000 to almost £20m, restoring its dividend and eradicating its pension fund deficit.

How has he managed that?

By expanding the range, with new models powered by electricity rather than oil, and with a push into the export market, which now accounts for 37 per cent of sales. The French, in particular, are now into Agas in a big way.

So is he an Aga type himself?

Actually, Mr McGrath would reject the assumption implicit in your question. He has worked hard to break down the traditional image of Aga – cookers and heaters for farmhouses – in order to broaden sales. And he's been pretty successful: this is a company that gave its name to the Aga saga – the novels of Joanna Trollope and others, with their broad appeal to both the rural and the urban middle classes. But, since you ask, he comes from Bristol and now lives in Solihull, just down the road from Aga's headquarters in Leamington Spa. It's not exactly the Cotswolds or the Yorkshire Dales, if that's what you mean.

Has he always been into posh cookers?

Far from it. He trained as an accountant at KPMG and then worked in the City for several years. But in his early thirties he went to work for a Midlands-based civil engineering company and has now been in the manufacturing sector in one guise or another for two decades.

And what's next?

Aga is a business that can trace its origins back to the earliest days of the industrial revolution – a technological wonder, of course, but also the beginning of the grime era – but now it is looking very seriously into how to power its next generation ofcookers from sources of alternative energy. That will no doubt please George Monbiot, the environmentalist, with whom Mr McGrath had a public falling-out a couple of years back over Aga's green credentials.

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