Mr Merseyside makes play for power source

DAVID HELLIER

Called "Mr Merseyside" in Liverpool, it is little surprise that Sir Desmond Pitcher is reportedly behind North West Water's approach for Norweb, the besieged electricity company.

As well as being chair of North West Water, Sir Desmond, who yesterday was determined not to comment on the approach, is chairman of the Merseyside Development Corporation and is deputy chairman of Everton Football Club. Until 1993 he was chief executive of the Liverpool-based Littlewoods organisation.

Born in the working-class Old Swan suburb of Liverpool, Sir Desmond's earlier worked lengthy spells at British Leyland and Plessey. He is now one of Britain's regional barons; these include Sir John Hall in the North East, the Richardson twins in the Midlands and Sir Owen Oyston, also in the North West. These men are omnipotent in their local business communities.

Sir Desmond's oft-stated passion for Merseyside has not stopped him accumulating a number of local critics.

Apart from the "fat cat businessman running a utility" type - he earns pounds 325,000 at North West Water and used to take home nearer pounds 1m at Littlewoods - he has also aroused criticism for the commercial failure of a 1992 Merseyside gala concert he helped to organise, which resulted in many local suppliers not being paid.

Asked whether he considered himself a committed Merseysider, Sir Desmond said: "I'm a bit surprised at so-called informed statements from some directions. I fought like hell to save the Leyland factory and I lost. I fought for the Plessey factory in Edge Lane and won. I think I can say that most people recognise me as the person who revived the fortunes of Littlewoods. I've created 14,5000 jobs with the Merseyside Development Corporation. I was born and bred within the sound of the cathedral bells."

However, Sir Desmond's no-nonsense approach - one source described him as a cold-hearted accountant - has made a name for himself in the local business community.

Those he has fallen out with include Sir Michael Edwardes at British Leyland, Michael Julien and John Clements at Littlewoods and Bob Thian, the former chief executive of North West Water who left the company six months after Sir Desmond became its chairman in April 1993.

At Littlewoods he fell out with a faction of the family that own the company, which felt he had not consulted them enough on executive decisions.

Sir Desmond was knighted in June 1992 for his efforts in regenerating Merseyside, though this has not stopped him being sensitive about his public image. Both at Littlewoods and at North West Water he has employed a public relations company, Lynne Franks, to look after his personal image.

It has been suggested that he sees the approach to Norweb as the obvious way for him to save a north-western utility company from falling into the hands of a foreign competitor. When he became chairman of North West Water in November 1993 he is reported to have said: "It's the largest company in the North West. It was a natural for me."

No doubt he assumes that it is natural for him to want his company to grow even more dominant in the local community.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?