Archive : Discovering the soft side of Rover’s hatchet man

By Gill Martin

The public image of Graham Day is the ruthless hatchet man of the Rover Group cutting a swathe through nervous executives to offset a dive in the car giant’s fortunes. At British Shipbuilders he was the Mister Nasty who axed 3,500 jobs , and hauled the shipyard at Birkenhead from bankruptcy to profit.

But at home he is a pussycat , insists his loyal wife Ann.

” Ruthless he ain’t ,” she says .

” The kids say he’s marshmallow inside. He’s very soft in the best kind of way, very considerate of peoples feelings. When he’s had to cut jobs and get rid of people there’s personal conflict. I’ve seen sleepless nights over these peoples problems.”

Ann a formidable looking figure , tall with neatly curled iron grey hair, sensible navy shoes on her size nine feet. She describes him as a devoted family man who loves to play the guitar and paddle a canoe, immerse himself in spy books and TV’s Minder and Dempsey and Makepeace, and who takes time off from his high pressure business trips around the world to bring her “loving presents”.

He brings her pearl rings from Hong Kong, cashmere skirt lengths from China, silks from Tokyo- and cheese from Montreal. “Graham is both a gentleman and a gentleman,” stresses Ann.” He’s extremely considerate , that’s the key to his personality.”

That may not be quite the way he is seen in the cut -throat business world where management could be forgiven for trembling a this thrusting North American style. Four top executives have been forced out of Austin Rover since the arrival of Graham Day in May . .. Harold Musgrove, chairman and chief executive, retired after 41 years with the company.

With him went managing director of product development Mark Snowdon. They followed in the departing tyre – treads of executives Ray Horrock s and David Andrew . There was no public show of commiseration to soften the blow. So how does 48-year-old Ann , Canadian -born like her husband, equate the loving family man who shares their Regency flat in London ‘ s South Kensington with the uncompromising axeman?

“You have to be a split personality in business,” she says. ” You couldn’t run a business like your home or run your home like your business. “I don’t get hurt by the criticism of him .

“I don’t upset easily, but It makes me cross when I think it portrays an untrue image . I resent that. Sometimes I send newspaper articles home to the children , Deborah , 27, Donna , 26 , an 24-year-old Canadian soldier Michael , because I don’t think they would recognise him . They get a laugh at some of the descriptions. Because he acts very quickly he has been described as impulsive. He is the least impulsive man I know. He thinks long and hard. So at work when it comes to asking people to leave he has given it a lot of thought. He has come to the con clusion that it is the only answer . . . the only choice.

“He does not do it easily, You do it because you have to , that does not mean you have to like it. It would be a lot easier it he did not have to think about the family repercussions for that man. But Graham is well aware of these things . It is not something one enjoys doing. Because he knows I know he will only do t hings when it Is necessary and not for the love of it, there is never any question of my criticising him. I would not presume to interfere .”

Ann Day, a former secretary , who met Graham when he was teaching her sister choral singing, is much more than the little housewife behind the great man . She is 5ft 9in and refuses to put ” housewife ” in her passport : ” I do much more than that , ” she says .

She provides an invaluable support system to a man who works an 80-hour week and is away from home 60 per cent of the time .
She organises their three homes , family house in Nova Scotia; nearby lakeside holiday cottage and London flat. She has masterminded 14 house moves with only two breakages . She copes with the house hold bills and chores.

She bakes and irons and washes and dusts and organises the social calendar. There is not too much of a social whirl as dates have to be cancelled at the last minute . A weekend with friends often ends up as a snatched Sunday lunch. She is so well-organised that she has a register of the outfit she wore to what function, when and with whom.

“He could not operate with out a support system. I try to set aside two hours a day organising and writing letters . I am the general dogsbody, but pretty methodical,” she says. She knows the details of their pension plan but is unsure of his exact salary. But it is around £100,000 as chairman and chief executive of the Rover Group, which lost more than £71 million in the first half of the year.

Graham Day says his wife, is a perfectionist who never trusts to luck: “But he believes in E S P , extra sensory perception , and in fate.” She adds . ” He believes you make your own luck. Timing is the key.”

She reveals a fascinating insight into the hard-nosed Mister Fixit of Rover. He never travels without a precious -talis-man in his breast pocket. “I would not say he-was supertitious but I have known him come back when he has forgotten it. It is a Japanese body safe like a St Christopher. It is a Japanese prayer, from a temple or shrine written on paper thin wood, wrapped in red brocade and tied with a white silk cord .”

It is the size of a credit card and the man who goes to work on a couple of eggs and a Rover never leaves home without it.

Keith Adams

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.