Obituary: Peter Orchard

Peter Francis Orchard, businessman, born 25 March 1927, Director De La Rue Ltd 1963-93, Chief Executive 1977-87, Chairman 1987- 93, Director Delta plc 1981-93, CBE 1982, married 1955 Helen Sheridan (two sons, two daughters), died 28 January 1993.

PETER ORCHARD could well have been a career diplomat, soldier, or classical scholar. He had the talents and tastes for all three professions, but chose instead to work as a businessman.

Orchard and De La Rue, the world's largest currency and security printing company, were made for each other. Outgoing and gregarious, yet subtle, blessed with the gift of language (in all senses), and a pragmatist with vision, he was at ease in a competitive and political marketplace. He also had a keen sense of company tradition, and sought to maintain its standards whenever he thought them threatened by passing fashions.

In its triumphs and misfortunes alike, De La Rue followed a path familiar to many other British firms. The family printing business, founded in 1813, developed under three generations of inventors and entrepreneurs, but had run out of steam by the 1920s, when it went public. Then, until the Second World War, its survival depended on a small base of banknote customers.

By 1950, when Orchard joined De La Rue, the business had entered its conglomerate phase which was to last, in various forms, until 1977 when he became chief executive. De La Rue for long periods had difficulty in defining its own indentity. Though its core business was, and is, the undisputed world leader, there was always the fear of over-reliance on the banknotes as a product. If, on occasions, Orchard led De La Rue towards technologies for which he had no special feeling, he never lost sight of the fact that the company's standing in one field was its most priceless asset. He lived to see, as chairman, De La Rue regain a clear identity, as a balanced and innovative group of currency, security-print and payment-systems businesses. It was a fitting culmination to his career.

After school at Downside, in Somerset, then four years in the army as a captain in the 60th Rifles and an instructor at the School of Infantry, Orchard went to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he took a first in the Classical Tripos. Typically, however, he always believed he was offered a graduate traineeship by De La Rue because the company cricket XI lacked bowling talent.

As a natural linguist, ambassador and negotiator, he rose quickly through the security side of the company, starting as an international salesman. In 1959, at the age of 32, he was managing director in Brazil, a country for which he retained a lasting affection. By 1962, he was managing director of Thomas De La Rue International, joining the De La Rue main board in 1963. Other appointments followed - he was an imaginative and influential personnel director for three years - until he succeeded Sir Arthur (Gerry) Norman as Chief Executive in 1977. In this role, he ran De La Rue for the next decade in partnership with his close friend and deputy Dan Moore.

When Gerry Norman retired in 1987, Orchard succeeded him as only the fourth chairman in De La Rue's history as a public company. Though non-executive, he continued to devote his energies to the company and to travel widely on its behalf. He never lost touch. Indeed, for sixth months in 1989, he was required to act again as chief executive, until Jeremy Marshall's appointment. Orchard collapsed and died on his way to work, after more than 43 years with De La Rue.

Described as a young man as 'brilliant, dynamic and full of fun', Peter Orchard was the same throughout his life. He retained his distinctive beliefs and patterns of behaviour, and his old friends. He could always find time to write to those in need of advice or comfort, with the same perfect prose and lightness of touch which adorned the most unlikely business reports.

A lifetime in one company seemed only natural to him - virtually all his interests were lifelong ones. He returned frequently to Downside, kept up his part-time soldiering until he was 62, and served on the Court of Assistants of the Drapers' Company for 19 years, having been Master in 1982.

Sport, especially cricket and rugby, was an abiding passion - he always liked to read his newspaper 'backwards'. He was a consummate host, and the most congenial of companions. He loved entertaining, as much among groups of pensioners as at the head of De La Rue's annual diplomatic dinner, or abroad with statesmen and business leaders.

Essentially he was a family man, both in his own home and in the extended family world of his colleagues and friends around the world.

(Photograph omitted)

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 People

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker