Pension Scandal: Rise and fall of an empire founded on ego and expansion: David Bowen examines the dramatic career of a man who personified the Eighties' culture of instant success
Thursday 07 April 1994
Two weeks after the decade had turned, his Coloroll group admitted it was in deep financial trouble. Six months later it went into receivership - the edifice, it emerged, had been built on sand.
Mr Ashcroft was born in 1948 in Wigan, the son of a quarry worker. He went to grammar school and then to the London School of Economics. After a training scheme at Tube Investments, he moved to Crown Wallcoverings, where he showed his unusual turn of mind by conducting unprecedentedly complex analysis on export markets.
He joined Coloroll in 1978 as export manager. The group was already making a name for itself under the leadership of John Bray. Mr Ashcroft became managing director when he was 30 and set about installing computer systems that analysed every possible facet of the business. In 1982 he became chief executive and two years later floated Coloroll on the stock market. He used the ever-increasing share price to snap up company after company.
He bought makers of mugs, duvets, curtains and carpets - suppressing the original brand names and applying the Coloroll look and management style to each. His own ego was always evident: a mug, including a picture of himself, was handed out internally. He applied the same techniques to his flock of sheep - working out their diet on computer.
The Guardian made him Young Businessman of the Year in 1987, but even as the City feted Mr Ashcroft, there were those who had doubts. Rival wallpaper makers believed Coloroll was buying business with unfeasibly low prices, while John Bray was surprised to find that he had been written out of the company history. Coloroll was brought down by the 1988 purchase of John Crowther, a group that had grown even more rapidly than itself. Worms emerged from both cans: it emerged that real losses were being concealed by clever accounting.
Mr Ashcroft's powers of analysis, it appeared, were no longer being applied. This was in part because he had been spending more time becoming one of the great and the good, and winning a CBE in the New Year's Honours list of 1990. He resigned three months later, and after a period in hibernation emerged to take control of an outdoor clothing company, Survival Aids. In March last year the group, inaptly renamed Survival Group, went into receivership.
He is now living in his Lancashire farmhouse, doing a PhD in economics at Manchester university - but it would be foolish to believe Dr John will keep his head down forever.
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
scienceScientists find the answer to a question that even puzzled Darwin
A very timely Great Train Robbery and a frantic 24 Hours in A&E among the highlights
scienceThe new development in bio-printing technology could be used in the future to restore lost vision - though years of research still await
Geoffrey Macnab: The Wolf of Wall Street's account of white-collar excess is A Rake’s Progress on steroids
arts + entsThe 'Friends' actor on his new role as campaigner on addiction issues
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
Colin Farrell reveals ‘affair’ with Elizabeth Taylor: 'She was my last romantic relationship'
Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
Devyani Khobragade: India-US row escalates over arrest of diplomat in New York
Peter O'Toole: Tales of the late film icon
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- 1 Facebook 'self-censorship': study records when you don't post to find more ways to share
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 ‘Why we don't have snow in Saudi Arabia’: Video captures winter fun as Middle East hit with rare blizzard
- 4 Vitamin pills are a waste of money, offer no health benefits and could be harmful - study
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >
£100 - £125 per day + Negotiable on role: Randstad Education London: Are you f...
£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A full time teacher job a...
£125 - £135 per day + Long Term Roles are negotiable: Randstad Education Londo...
£125 - £135 per day + negotiable for long term roles: Randstad Education Londo...