The kipper-tie maker who triumphed over Maxwell

People & Business

John Willcock
Thursday 01 May 1997 23:02

John Talbot's career mirrors the triumphs and tragedies of the British economy under the past 18 years of Tory rule. In the early 1980s Mr Talbot worked as a financial director in a Midlands factory which made kipper ties. Fashions changed and his company went into receivership.

The receivers were so impressed by his grasp of finances, however, that they offered him a job. He accepted, and after a few career moves he popped up at Arthur Andersen, heading its insolvency department just in time for the recession.

In 1991 our man, a profoundly reticent professional, found himself splashed all over the front pages as the chief winder-upper of Robert Maxwell's global business empire. He was responsible for co-ordinating a large team which had to disentangle more than 200 companies world-wide and find out where the pension money ended up.

With that and similar tasks completed, our hero now leads a corporate finance department for Arthur Andersen. So successful has he been that a recent mergers and acquisitions league table put AA 14th in the UK, ahead of other corporate finance houses such as JP Morgan. All that and he's a demon at snooker as well.

From kipper-tie maker to corporate undertaker to City deal maker in 18 years, Mr Talbot is a perfect emblem of the Tory era. Perhaps there's a film in it?

Germany's biggest management consultancy has poached the UK managing director of rivals Arthur D Little to head up a big expansion drive in Britain.

Roland Berger & Partner has appointed Tim Simpson, a youthful-looking 50-year-old, to lead the charge. He will join UK chairman Ian Hay Davison, a former boss of Lloyd's of London.

While Berger has been growing like mad in Germany recently it has only begun to operate seriously in the UK in the past couple of years.

Mr Simpson is described to me by someone who's met him as "quite nice really - not like a management consultant at all. He doesn't draw you lots of diagrams or things like that."

Messrs Simpson and Hay Davison should have no trouble bonding; Mr Simpson is an organist, while there's nothing Mr Hay Davison prefers more than a spot of church bell ringing. They should make a lively, if noisy, team.

Sam Simons, contracts manager at Taylor Woodrow, has been a busy bee. TayWood has just landed a pounds 22m contract to supply all the concrete panelling for 14.5km of tunnels in the new Copenhagen underground system.

Mr Simons is proud of his concrete, which has been used in the Heathrow Express Rail Link, Thames Water sewer refurbishments and London Electricity cable tunnels. The secret, Mr Simons tells me, is the granite aggregate used in the concrete. It comes from Glen Sanda on the coast of west Scotland. So whatever Labour does about European integration, there will be a large chunk of Scotland nestling forever in the bosom of Copenhagen.

Oh dear. Here comes another management fad: "Business recapitulation aims to balance four human aspects - emotional, physical, mental and spiritual - to enhance relationships, solve problems and integrate people and activities."

Heather Campbell and David Firth, specialists in human behaviour, will present a paper on business recapitulation at a Working Potential conference at Regent's College, London, on 15 May.

Ms Campbell says: "My work combines psychology, ancient wisdom, ritual, the creative arts and humour. Balancing all four human aspects will help us with the multiplicity of problems we face in today's business environment."

Blimey. At this rate Sting will be running GEC.

Allied Domecq, the Beefeater to Teacher's group, has brought in Rupert Barclay from LEK Partnership to be its new strategy guru. Mr Barclay, 40, did an MA in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge, and has an MBA too.

Mr Barclay and Tony Hales, group chief executive, will work out how to put extra fizz into the booze and pubs business.

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