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
Wood.
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.

The Guardian Obituary

The Guardian Roger Cowe First published on Mon 24 Mar 2003
Sir Frederick Wood
Businessman at the sharp end of Tory privatisation policy
Many businessmen have been recruited over the years to do the bidding of governments. Sir Frederick Wood, who has died aged 76, was one of the few who avoided both failure and political disaster.
Wood's father set up the chemical company now known as Croda International in 1953. After his father's early death, Frederick succeeded to the post of managing director at the age of 27. He was so successful that, in 1972, the Conservative government of Edward Heath put him in charge of the National Bus Company, assuming for once correctly that his business skills would be transferable to a completely different industry. He later went on to dismantle the National Enterprise Board (NEB), which had been set up by a Labour government as a tool of industrial policy.
He coped better than most of the businessmen called in to turn round nationalised industries, both with the transition to an industry he knew nothing about and to the political world, with which he was also relatively unfamiliar. In fact, he had once stood as a Conservative parliamentary candidate, but was not one of the group of political business people who were prominent in Heath's circle.
Wood was an unlikely combination of proud Yorkshireman and American-style executive. He was born near Goole, the year after his father began running a new factory set up by his uncle, George Crowe, to manufacture lanolin, a substance used in cosmetics and toiletries. He joined the business after service in the Fleet Air Arm at the end of the second world war, and was soon dispatched to New York to set up an American branch.
Three years in the US imbued him with American brashness, and when he returned, in 1953, he brought with him a garish Buick convertible. He flew his own plane, and cut a dash in Yorkshire society with his home-grown charm and American-style gregariousness.
This combination made him a success at work, where he pursued expansion, concentrating on the most profitable products rather than simply going for sales. The strategy paid off sufficiently for the company to float on the stock market in 1964, four years after he had taken over from his uncle as chairman at the age of 38.
Eight years later, the Heath government was looking for business leaders to help rescue its policy of industrial detachment. The government had been forced to prop up companies such as Rolls-Royce, but was intent on denationalisation where possible. Wood was called in to oversee the National Bus Company, which had been created from a collection of regional groups by the previous Labour government. Under his chairmanship, between 1972 and 1978, the core of what is now the National Express intercity network was created, with its distinctive livery and attractive cut-price fares. Wood was knighted in 1977, and National Express became independent as the result of a management buyout in 1988.
With the return of a privatising Conservative government in 1979, Wood's success with the bus company led to the more demanding challenge of the NEB. This had been established by Labour on its election in 1974 as a vehicle for investing in and exerting control over industry. As such it was a prime target for abolition under Margaret Thatcher, but its various investments meant that a careful winding-down process was required. The first step was to merge it with the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), a hangover from Labour's first postwar administration, whose focus was on technology development, especially computing. Wood had been a member of the NRDC board since 1973 and became its chairman in 1979. He was therefore handed the task of merging it with the NEB and privatising the new body, which was known as the British Technology Group, and privatised in 1983.
That was the end of Wood's public service, and he stepped down as chairman of Croda three years later, when Parkinson's disease began to take its toll. He is survived by his wife Su, whom he married in 1947, their two sons and a daughter.

 

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