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The Entrepreneurial Exchange

Business Leaders Battle It Out For Top Entrepreneur Title

Three business leaders will battle it out for the prestigious title of Entrepreneur of the Year next week.

Chris Giles, James Barnes and Simon Howie are nominated for the top award at the Entrepreneurial Exchange Awards.

Previous winners of the prize include Sir Tom Hunter, John Boyle and Bob Keiller.

Martin Lightbody won the title last year after impressing judges by turning his family firm into a specialist cake maker before brokering a deal to take a 30 per cent stake in Finsbury Food Group. Clintec founder Dr Rabinder Buttar, Fake Bake's Sandra McClumpha and Abermed chief executive James Miller have been nominated in the emerging entrepreneur category.

Ana Stewart, of ATM advertising company i-design, won in 2007. The winners of both awards will be announced at a ceremony in Glasgow on November 27.

Chris Giles

It is 20 years since Chris Giles joined the insurance industry and he maintains his passion for it still burns brightly.

The Giles Group currently employs more than 1,200 people in 45 branches across the UK.

Earlier this year, Giles Insurance was sold for £185million to the Charterhouse private equity group, which granted £500m capital for the company to use.

Jim Boyle, head of entrepreneurial business for Deloitte in Scotland, said: "Over the last few years, Chris has led the business through a significant number of acquisitions, and the secondary private equity transition in 2008 resulted in Gresham quadrupling their investment in less than two years, a remarkable return by any measure.

"Chris is clearly not one setting his sights low and is now looking to build a business with an enterprise value of £500m and with a gross written premium of £1billion.

"Chris is very much from the 'sales-led' school of growth and is heavily involved in driving the business forward."

James Barnes

James Barnes joined the Dobbies board in 1989 after working in financial services in London.

At the time, the company was managed by his father and had five Scottish garden centres.

Barnes rationalised the business to focus on garden centre retailing and led a management buy-out in 1994.

Now the company operates 24 stores across the UK with sales of more than £80m.

Despite Tesco buying the company for £155.6m, Barnes continues to run Dobbies from its historic base in Midlothian.

James Baird, senior partner for Deloitte in Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: "James is an exuberant leader, stressing his passion for the business and his admiration for the team he works with.

"He has brought a passion for quality, a commitment to professionalism and an entrepreneurial drive for value growth to a sector that has traditionally been familybased, localised and relatively sleepy."

Simon Howie

Butcher-turned-serial entrepreneur Simon Howie opened his first shop in Perthshire in 1986, aged 19.

In 1991, he set up Shore Laminate Fabricators.

Market leading brand Thrislington was recently purchased with contracts sealed with The Museum of Modern Art in New York, new Olympic Stadium in London and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

In 2002, Howie set up Shore Recycling to recycle fridges and sold it for £23m.

Mike McGregor, an associate partner for audit within Deloitte's entrepreneurial business team in Scotland, said: "Simon has demonstrated an ability to create and build sustainable businesses in different sectors - including a successful manufacturing operation in Scotland - and realise value many times in excess of his investment.

"His ambition to respond to new opportunities and harnessing his ideas into business propositions shows no sign of abating with his most recent ventures into logistics and waste to energy recycling. A true serial entrepreneur."

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