Egan soars higher

Good Times, Bad Times: The Business Personalities Of The Year
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The Independent Online
It was another good year for Sir John Egan, chief executive of BAA. The airport operator celebrated its tenth anniversary as a quoted company and unveiled the largest acquisition in its history with a deal to buy US group Duty Free International for $674m (pounds 408m). The purchase makes BAA the second largest duty-free business in the world, after DFS.

One of the golden boys of the Thatcher administration, Mr Egan has an impressive track record. After an adventurous career that included five years in the Middle East with Shell, he was brought in to save car maker Jaguar in 1980, then on the brink of closure.

In ten years Mr Egan turned Jaguar around and sold it to Ford for pounds 1.6bn, making himself a cool pounds 2m in the process - not bad for the son of a Coventry car dealer.

But this inevitably brought him into conflict with trade unions and he gained a reputation as a hard taskmaster. At BAA he has taken a public- sector culture and transformed it into a market-oriented company where customers come first. Mr Egan has built up the company's retail operations, which have become the envy of airports around the world.

The avowed Tory has been schmoozing with the Labour Government recently. Hardly surprising given that the decision about whether to build a new terminal at Heathrow is looming.