Archive : Stokes Takes Over At British Leyland

Eight months after the merger, a change of chairman.

Eight months after he took his British Motor Holdings group into the merger with Leyland. which produced the gigantic British Leyland Motor Corporation, Sir George Harriman last night announced his retirement from the chairmanship of the new group. He becomes president and Sir Donald Stokes is the new chairman and managing director.

Announcing his retirement, Sir George said: “The formation of a really effective British motor manufacturer has always been one of my ambitions and now that I am satisfied it is off to a really good start, I feel the time has come for me to make way for younger men.”

At the same time details were released of the men chosen by Sir Donald to hold key positions in his new team. It does not make happy reading for B.M.H. executives. With one or two exceptions, Leyland men have swept the board. Dr. Albert Fogg, Leyland’s highly regarded technical expert, Jack Plane, a Leyland overseas specialist and George Turnbull, 42- year-old director and general manager of Standard-Triumphs, are appointed deputy managing directors.

Mr Turnbull, who is in France, told Business News last night that the changes would create a great deal more team spirit than there had been up to now.

He added: “Everyone will now have clear targets, and it will be a matter of going flat out to expand each division as fast as we can.”

The remainder of the top team is quite small. John Barber continues as director of finance and planning with Ronald Lucas, formerly deputy managing director of B.M.C. as treasurer. Lucas is one of the few B.M.C. executives to emerge with an enhanced reputation from the dreadful winter of 1966-67 when B.M.C. sacked 12000 men and was caught with an enormous stockpile of cars and no market.

Sir William Lyons, chairman of Jaguar, and Lewis Whyte, a Leyland director, have been appointed deputy chairmen of the group.
During recent months, there have been increasing reports of middle management men leaving B.M.C. Leaks about the preference shown to Leyland men in Sir Donald’s team, before last night’s announcement may have been responsible for this.

Nearly nine months after the great motor industry merger between Leyland and B.M.C. was first announced the company has published the top group appointments. After reading the list we rang Sir Donald Stokes, now chairman as well as managing director, and suggested that it looked like a Leyland takeover.

“Not quite “, said Sir Donald, “we have put the right men in the right jobs.”‘

He went on to explain how happy everyone at B.M.C. was with the new management set-up and added: “The fact we have taken a little time to do it ensures that it is seen to be fair.”

Nevertheless the three key men under Sir Donald, all deputy managing directors, are Leyland men. Dr. Albert Fogg is the engineering supremo who has coordinated the development of the 70 m.p.h. gas turbine truck which Leyland introduces at the motor show on Friday. Jack Plane, the man who runs the South African operation, will also take charge of the overseas division. George Turnbull will also be the boss of the Austin Morris volume car division. It is the 41-year-old Turnbull who really has the hot seat. This is the area where the group must prove itself if it is going to stay in the international big league.

Turnbull began as an apprentice with Standard Triumph, won a scholarship to Birmingham University in 1947, and rose to be manager of the group’s car production. He was quickly identified by Sir Donald as a man on the move. Another Stokes protege is the 43-year-old Ron Ellis. who takes over the Truck and Bus Division. He started as an apprentice at Leyland at the age of 16 and also won a university scholarship later. His star rocketed after he became assistant to the sales director (then a Mr. Donald Stokes) in 1960.

The former B.M.C. men do get a look in. John Lutyens will be running the Pressed Steel Fisher division and Bill Davis will continue as sole deputy managing director of Austin Morris. The man singled out as a high flyer. however, is Filmer Paradise, the salesman whom B.M.C. bought from Ford a few months before the merger. He moves up to director of sales (home and over- seas) for volume cars. The man who appointed him, Lester Suffield, former B.M.C. deputy managing director, becomes London sales director.

Keith Adams

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