Specialists who are called when the patient is critical

KEN SCOBIE: Born 1938, and educated at Daniel Stewart's College, Edinburgh. An accountant, he made his mark at Blackwood Hodge, the construction equipment group he joined in 1983 when it was suffering big losses. He reduced the debts and set the company on the path to expansion overseas.

He left two years ago after a boardroom dispute and replaced George Walker as chief executive of Brent Walker in July 1991, in the middle of refinancing talks. The completion of the refinancing was described by Brent Walker's chairman as 'little short of miraculous'. He has recently come under fire for awarding himself a pounds 150,000 bonus.

With Sir Lewis Robertson and others, Mr Scobie has set up Postern, a company specialising in corporate rescue. It aims to provide a flying squad of company doctors.

SIR IAN MacGREGOR: Born 1912 and educated at the University of Glasgow, he has an American mining background. He has been president of American Metal Co, chairman of British Steel 1980-83, chairman of the National Coal Board 1983-86. The great grandad of company doctors, he just won't stop working.

At BSC he made tens of thousands of steelworkers redundant, although he won respect for holding the line against cuts wanted by the Government. Sir Ian defeated Arthur Scargill in the miners' strike of 1984-5, and has since concentrated on rescues of smaller companies. In 1987 he joined David James in the rescue of North Sea Assets, an investment company, but left after a clash of personalities. His five years on the board of Mountleigh could not stop the property company crashing this year.

Ten days ago he was ousted as chairman of HunterPrint, where losses remained high. He is still chairman of Holmes Protection, which completed a debt restructuring last month.

SIR LEWIS ROBERTSON: Born 1922, educated at Glenalmond and Trinity College, trained as an accountant. Managing director Scott & Robertson 1965-70, chief executive Grampian Holdings 1971-76. Sir Lewis is one of the Great and the Good, on the boards of numerous Scottish charities and institutions.

In his first doctoring role he took over F H Lloyd in 1982, and closed plants to save it. The following year he became chairman of Triplex, which then took over Lloyd. He left Triplex Lloyd in 1990, when profits were a healthy pounds 12.2m. As chairman of Borthwicks (1985-89), he was much less successful. This troubled food group was four years into a supposed turnaround when he arrived. Despite disposals, he was unable to raise profits, and his last act in 1989 was a profits warning.

He helped the Scottish engineering company Lilley recover from a pounds 50m loss in 1986, and brought in Bob Rankin to take it on an expansionary path. But a failed bid for Tilbury left Lilley with a stake that had to be sold at a loss, and the recession has hit it hard. Sir Lewis is also having difficulties with Stakis, the hotels and casino group. He took over in 1991 and decided to concentrate on hotels and nursing homes but failed to find a buyer for the casinos. Stakis is soldiering on under pounds 200m of debt.

ROY BARBER: Born 1935, educated at Mexborough Grammar School, he was a Price Waterhouse accountant in Paris and The Hague, then made his name as financial director of Fairclough Construction, which became Amec. In 1986 he came to Aberdeen Construction and restructured it sufficiently to attract a pounds 61m bid from Raine Industries the following year. Brought in to save the conglomerate Thomas Robinson last summer, he sold its car dealerships and reorganised, and in January BM Group made a pounds 41m offer for the company.

At Astra Holdings, the fireworks and arms business caught up in the Iraqi Supergun affair and burdened by the bad acquisitions of BMARC and PRB, Mr Barber was brought in on pounds 2,000 a day. He called in the DTI - the first time a chairman asked for an investigation of his own company. He tried to force the vendor of one of the bad purchases (PRB) to repay the pounds 21.5m it had cost, and settled for pounds 3.3m. He claimed he made cost savings of pounds 10m a year, but Astra continued to lose money and went into receivership this February. Although unable to save the company, an institutional shareholder describes his performance as 'faultless'. He is considering two job offers.

(Photographs omitted)

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