obituaries: Simon Dyer

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The Independent Online
Simon Dyer's drive and leadership qualities took him, at the age of 47, to the top of the UK's biggest motoring organisation, the Automobile Association. Under his administration membership of the AA reached 8.7 million, and by the mid-1990s a domestic emergency assistance service was attracting an entirely new type of member.

He became Director General of the AA in August 1987, on the retirement of Olaf Lambert, who had held the post for the previous 10 years.

A lawyer and accountant by training, Dyer was a steadfast leader whose management skills were of crucial importance to the AA during a challenging period of development, much of it achieved against a background of economic recession. He was convinced that changes were necessary to carry the AA forward. He never lost his vision of the AA as a members' club - as it had been founded in 1905 - providing a range of personal and emergency services. He re-organised the association into four distinct business groupings, a structure which saw it through the recession of the early 1990s.

Twenty years' experience in key posts with the AA prepared Dyer for his appointment. He joined the AA as chief accountant, and helped to install its computerised budgetary control system. In 1970 he was put in charge of touring and travel, establishing the AA's first full range of travel services.

He became director of travel and membership administration in 1973 and in 1977 took over as director of road-service operations, with responsibility for the AA's then five regions. In 1982 he was appointed managing director and one of the first executive members of the AA Committee.

During nearly nine years as Director General, Dyer also served for three years (1992-95) as world president of the Alliance Internationale du Tourisme, which links 130 motoring and touring clubs representing 128 million people world-wide. Supported by his wife Gay, he had a punishing schedule that took him to virtually every country in the world on the AIT's behalf, where many lifelong friends were made.

A highlight of his stewardship was a closer alliance with the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, with the establishment of a joint office in Brussels to represent the views of motorists to the European Union. And in 1990, with partners in other European motoring organisations, he was instrumental in setting up ARC Transistance, which provides Europe's largest manufacturers' breakdown assistance scheme for new cars.

Among other appointments, Dyer served on the executive council of the British Road Federation, and on the council of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the Hotel and Restaurants Committee of the British Tourist Authority.

Simon Dyer was born in 1939, spent his earliest years in India, and was educated at Ampleforth College and the universities of Oxford and Paris. He obtained a degree in Law and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1967. He worked for Coopers & Lybrand, undertaking large-scale audits in the UK and in French West Africa, before joining the AA.

A devoted family man, he lived near Kew Gardens with his wife and two daughters. In his spare time he played tennis and was a keen gardener - he spoke with pride of a triumphant first prize for his tomatoes at the Kew Flower Show.

He spent holidays driving and skiing, invariably in France, where his greatest joy was to be with his "three girls" in a restored family house near Vaison la Romaine, in Provence. Here he enjoyed labouring in his small vineyard, and was very proud when he was able to grow enough grapes to earn the status of local wine producer.

Ralph Carr-Ellison

Simon Dyer, accountant and administrator: born Winchester, Hampshire 19 October 1939; chief accountant, Automobile Association 1967-73, director of travel and membership administration 1973-77, director of operations 1977-82, managing director and executive member of the AA Committee 1982-87, Director-General 1987-96; World President, Alliance Internationale du Tourisme 1991-95; CBE 1995; married 1967 Gay Walsh (two daughters); died London 17 February 1996.