James Barnes, Chief Executive, Dobbies Garden Centres plc (www.dobbies.co.uk) After graduating from Exeter University with a BA in Economics, James Barnes joined the City firm of L Messel & Company in 1983. He became an Associate Director in 1986, shortly after the Company merged with Shearson Lehman. In 1987 James joined Prudential Bache (Capital Funding) until his departure to join Dobbies in 1989 as Business Development Director. In 1994, following a MBO, James was appointed Managing Director. In 1997 he became Chief Executive when the Company floated on AIM. Dobbies is now the second largest garden centre group in the UK with annual sales of circa £50M.
Robert Wiseman, Managing Director Robert Wiseman Dairies (www.wiseman-dairies.co.uk/results) was raised in East Kilbride and went on to study at Auchencruive Agricultural College in Ayrshire in the mid 70’s. After completing his studies, Robert returned to the family farm where he gained valuable experience in all aspects of milk production. He took up a strategic role in the Company in 1979 with responsibilities for the new site in Possilpark when we entered the Glasgow market and, in 1985, Robert was appointed Managing Director. Robert has become one of the key contributors to the UK dairy industry. He continues to play a very active role in the Scottish food and drink industry as well as the Scottish business community. Robert is married and lives in Perthshire with his wife, Paula. He has 2 sons and 4 daughters. Robert enjoys a round or two of golf during the summer months and shooting in season, if time permits. He also appreciates a good football and rugby match – purely as a spectator! The company evolved during the 70’s and 80’s from a doorstep delivery operation into a successful processing and distribution business, with expansion into the wholesale and retail markets in Scotland. In 1991 the company expanded into England, a catalyst for what was to be a decade of significant growth for the East Kilbride based company. Key developments during this time included listing on the London Stock Exchange (1994), the opening of the Manchester dairy (1995), and the acquisition of Scottish Pride’s fresh milk business (1997). The new Millennium saw the opening of a state-of-the-art Dairy at Droitwich and the acquisition of Lordswood Dairies in the Bristol area. Robert Wiseman Dairies is today, the third biggest liquid milk producer in the UK.
The Chairman for the Evening is Tom Hunter, Chairman, West Coast Capital (www.westcoastcapital.co.uk). Tom built Sports Division from nothing into one of the UK’s premier sports retailers over a fourteen-year period employing 7,500 people across over 250 stores. He sold the business in 1998 for £290 million; his stake in the business was valued at £260 million. Prior to establishing the private equity vehicle, West Coast Capital in early 2001, Tom invested over £20 million as an “angel” investor in high growth businesses in Property, Retails and Leisure/Branding across the UK, Ireland and Europe. Since its inception West Coast has concluded a number of major property, retail and leisure related deals valued in excess of £1 billion through a range of joint ventures and sole acquisitions. West Coast Capital had taken a major equity position in leading jeans retailer D2, where Tom is Chairman and a major position in UK gift retailer, The Gadgetshop and more recently acquired the UK’s premier shoe retailer, Office. All three chains are being aggressively built into formidable UK retailers. West Coast now focuses upon major deals in the property, retail and leisure arenas and has moved away from “angel” type investment. Tom is an ardent supporter of fellow entrepreneurs and passionate about making Scotland a more enterprising nation. He continues to devote considerable time, money and energy in his efforts to work with educational establishments and fellow entrepreneurs to further this cause. He is Chairman of The Entrepreneurial Exchange and personally be quested £5 million to support the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde University. Since selling Sports Division, alongside his wife Marion, he has invested significant time, energy and money (in excess of 10 million) through their charitable foundations, The Hunter Foundation in supporting many children’s charities, educational and enterprise initiative that will help build a more enterprising and confident Scotland or help less fortunate children within Scotland. Tom founded the Entrepreneurial Exchange Ball which in only 4 years has raised over a staggering £1.2 million pounds helping The Make a Wish Foundation which Tom is Chairman of and Save the Children. He is a director of the Princes Scottish Business Youth Trust (PSYBT), Schools Enterprise Scotland – where he led the £5 million fundraising campaign to deliver enterprise education for all of Scotland’s primary school children. He is also a Trustee of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and Chairman of the Make a Wish Foundation in Scotland. Tom was awarded a doctorate by Strathclyde University in late 2001 where he is a visiting alumni.