Obituary: Sir John Davis

John Henry Harris Davis, businessman: born 10 November 1906; Chief Accountant, Odeon Theatres (later Rank Organisation Ltd) 1938, Secretary 1938, Joint Managing Director 1942, Managing Director 1948-62, Deputy Chairman 1951-62; Director, Rank Foundation 1953-93; Kt 1971; Joint Chairman, Rank Xerox 1957-72, Joint President 1972-83; Chief Executive, Rank Organisation plc, Subsidiary and Associated Companies 1962-74, Chairman 1962-77, President 1977-83; Chairman, fund-raising committee, Westminster Abbey Appeal 1973- 85; CVO 1985; married 1926 Joan Buckingham (one son), 1947 Marion Gavid (two daughters), 1954 Dinah Sheridan (marriage dissolved 1965), 1976 Mrs Felicity Rutland; died 27 May 1993.

THE BUSINESS career of John Davis has been well documented, but there were many other sides to 'JD', writes Peter Lendrum.

All great leaders, whether military, political, or industrial are rarely universally loved and admired, particularly by those who who do not know them or who have crossed swords through disagreements or their own failures. JD was a man greatly respected, but he instilled a sense of fear if you should not meet his exacting standards - and there were none higher. By his own example, he extracted a workload from his colleagues of which they themselves did not know they were capable. The satisfaction of knowing a job was well done, did not result in commendation, but by instruction to improve on it in a similar situation the next time round.

Davis did not maintain standards, he set them. There was no second best nor second chance. All those close to him found him a great companion, loyal and in private, a man who could willingly laugh at life. His compassion and generosity have never been publicly acknowledged. So many members of the company who became ill, were bereaved or fell on hard times were invariably helped through his intervention. They never knew.

Davis enjoyed life. On one visit to Tokyo I was summoned to his hotel suite at about 6.30am - not early by his standards. The door was opened and a stern-faced Sir John asked: 'Is there any reason you should not be fired for your appalling behaviour last night?' Before I could reply, he continued: 'Two of you went out last night and I understand visited about 10 night-clubs, rolling back here in the small hours. Why was I not invited?' 'Not possible,' I replied. 'We were just making a reconnaissance so that we could take you to the best club tonight.'

Also little known is his unique contribution as chairman of the fund- raising appeal for the restoration of the fabric of Westminster Abbey. This appeal never went public, yet raised over pounds 10m by the time he retired. The exterior of the abbey today is one tribute to his memory. His permanent memorial is a stone carving of his name high on the north wall alongside that of the Duke of Edinburgh and other members of the appeal organisation.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor