Sir Freddie Wood (1926-2003)

Sir Freddie WoodWho's Who

 WOOD, Sir Frederick (Ambrose Stuart). Knighted 1977.
Born 30 May 1926; son of Alfred Phillip Wood, Goole, Yorkshire, and Patras, Greece, and Charlotte Wood (née Barnes), Goole, Yorkshire, and Athens, Greece; married 1947, J. R. (Su) King; two sons one daughter; died 9 March 2003
Hon. Life President, Croda International Ltd, since 1987 (Managing Director, 1953–85, Executive Chairman, 1960–85, non-executive Chairman, 1985–86)
Education -
Felsted School, Essex; Clare College, Cambridge
Career -
Served War, Sub-Lt (A) Observer, Fleet Air Arm, 1944–47. Trainee Manager, Croda Ltd, 1947–50; President, Croda Inc., NY, 1950–53. Chairman, National Bus Company, 1972–78. Mem., 1973–78, Chm., 1979–83, NRDC; Chairman: NEB, 1981–83; British Technology Gp, 1981–83. Member, Nationalised Industries Chairman’s Group, 1975–78. Chairman. British Section, Centre Européen d’Entreprise Publique, 1976–78. Hon. LLD Hull, 1983.
Address -
Hearn Wood, The Mount, Headley, Hants GU35 8AG
(01428) 712134

The Times Obituary

Sir Frederick Wood - Businessman whose extravagant cars and private planes reflected the ambition that produced international success.
For many, Freddie Wood epitomised the bluff no nonsense Yorkshireman, but one who, with integrity and honesty, was equally at home in the financial institutions of the City and amid the hurly-burly of the chemical plant. As an admirer of the way in which the American tycoon Henry Rockefeller had sorted out the American oil industry, Wood embodied the kind of entrepreneurial dynamism that believes in seizing opportunities and creating new markets.
It was perhaps inevitable that Frederick Ambrose Stuart Wood would join Croda, the family chemical firm, as he was born at its first lanolin plant, in Rawcliffe Bridge, Yorkshire. Lanolin, a base for cosmetics and lubricants, was one of the company's major products.
Wood joined Croda full-time in 1947 at the age of 21, after attending Felsted School, Clare College, Cambridge, and serving in the Fleet Air Arm.
It was as a young sub-lieutenant, posted to Eglinton, near Londonderry, as a transport officer, that he met his future wife, Su King, a WRNS driver. They were married soon afterwards and she remained his lifelong and most supportive companion.
On joining Croda, Wood completed a crash course in management devised by his father. He worked through the various departments and opted to join the sales department.
Croda had been the creation of one family, the Woods. Without Alfred Wood there would have been no Croda, but without his son, it would have been just another family firm, like the many that Croda took over. Its rapid growth and international prominence are both due to Sir Frederick
When Wood's father died unexpectedly in 1949, Croda employed 125 staff. When Wood eventually handed over his executive responsibilities in 1986, the company employed 6,000 staff around the world and had established itself as a respected name in the City and on the London Stock Exchange.
After his father's death, Wood was sent to set up the American operations with little more than a briefcase and a desk - and no capital.
By the time he returned to Britain to become Managing Director in 1953, he had built up sales and profits which equalled those in the UK.
This time abroad gave Wood a genuinely international perspective, and within five years Croda had a presence in three continents.
When he returned he brought a certain element of style with him. Indeed, he attracted attention in postwar Britain with his love of American gas-guzzlers - a large, yellow open-topped Buick was one of his first imports to cut a dash along the narrow lanes of East Yorkshire. For a long time many of the Croda products were given as codenames the names of various models - such as Stutz and Cadillac.
Wood's ability to "think big" not only led the company on to the stock market and into a series of acquisitions that gave it a global presence, but extended to his own personal style. Croda, for example, was one of the first companies to have its own executive plane when Wood discovered it was a fast and effective means of travel after he qualified for his pilot's licence. At one point the company had two planes and two full-time pilots.
For a short while he was attracted to politics, standing for the Conservatives in the Middlesbrough East by-election of 1962 and general election in 1964, but his failure to dent Labour's majority persuaded him to stick to the chemical industry.
Nonetheless, public service still appealed, and in 1972, under Ted Heath's Government, he took over the part-time chairmanship of the National Bus Company, a nationalised business. He swiftly reorganised it and developed a marketing strategy that produced healthy profits. The strategy
included the creation of a long-distance network with stations in city centres, and a new chevron logo.
In 1978 he became chairman of the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC). In 1981 he was asked to chair the National Enterprise Board, which he combined with the NRDC, thereby creating the British Technology Group.
By 1986 Wood had begun to suffer the effects of Parkinson's disease and withdrew from professional life. He believed that as head of an international organisation he should be actively working at full capacity or else hand over the reins. From that time until recently, he managed the family's affairs, allowing his keen interest in business and the stock market to make the transition from big business to private venture.
He was knighted in the Queen's Jubilee Birthday Honours in 1977.
He is survived by his wife, and by their daughter and two sons.
Sir Frederick Wood, Chairman of Croda International 1960-86, was born on May 30, 1926. He died on March 9, 2003, aged 76.

back to British Glues & Chemicals