George Simpson

(Lord Simpson of Dunkeld)

1942 -

George Simpson
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

George Simpson

Businessman who precipitated one of the most dramatic crashes in British corporate history. Born in Dundee, the son of a mill manager, Simpson was brought up in Perthshire. He studied accountancy at Dundee Technical College (now the University of Abertay), graduating in 1963. After first working in the Scottish gas industry, Simpson joined the then-nationalised British Leyland in 1969, rising to a Director by 1976. He became Managing Director of the Leyland Trucks business in 1983, returning to head the Leyland car business, Rover Group, in 1989, which was now owned by British Aerospace. He revived this company and was able to sell it to the German car-maker BMW. He joined the Board of the parent British Aerospace in 1990 and was appointed Deputy Chief Executive (1992). He left to take control of the ailing component manufacturer Lucas Industries (1994) and was able to sell this off too. Finally, Simpson joined the General Electric Company plc as Managing Director (1996). He sold the lucrative defence business and renamed the group after one of its subsidiaries, Marconi.

Put forward by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Simpson was awarded a life peerage in 1997 and takes the Labour whip in the House of Lords.

In 2001, Simpson was sacked as Chief Executive of Marconi after the dramatic failure of his strategy to focus the company away from defence and into telecommunications, just as this latter market crashed, bringing about a remarkable collapse in the value of the company by 95% or some £33 billion. Simpson had a reputation for fixing up sick companies and then moving on; in retrospect, his mistake with Marconi was trying to develop the business, something in which, it could be claimed, he had little experience.

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