BILL Hazeldean, who developed Macrae Food Group into one of the UK's biggest producers of ready-to-eat seafood, has been named 2004 Entrepreneur of the Year, one of the highest accolades in the world of business.
The award was made by the Entrepreneurial Exchange at a dinner at the Glasgow Hilton hotel last night. It was sponsored by Bank of Scotland and by PricewaterhouseCoopers, The Herald, and UBS Wealth Management.
Hazeldean was honoured for managing to create a thriving business that was sold earlier this year for around £40m, in a seafood processing sector in which many Scottish firms have fallen victim to cut-throat competition.
After forming Macrae through a management buy-out of Foodmark's sauce factory in Peterhead in 1994, Hazeldean grew it into a £87m turnover operation through a bold 10-year programme of acquisitions and organic growth.
Macrae had around 1300 employees and commanded a 30% share of the ready-to-eat seafood market when it was sold to Youngs BlueCrest in June.
The 53-year-old Hazeldean beat off competition from John Kennedy of property group Kenmore, and Alan Kinney and Jim McGonigle, who were jointly nominated for high street fashion chain d2, for the top award.
Chris Gorman, vice-chairman of the exchange and chair of the judging panel, said: "Bill has been working away for years and he is a worthy winner. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what Bill will go on to do next."
Simon Howie, of Simon Howie Limited, was the winner in the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year category, which recognises an individual the panel believes is growing a business of outstanding potential.
Former butcher's boy Howie, aged 37, has built one of Scotland's most successful meat businesses in Perthshire, earning himself the nickname "Scotland's Haggis king" for winning contracts to supply Sainsbury.
As well as other leading multiples the business also supplies restaurants and hotels including the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews.
Howie has also established successful businesses active in laminates fabrication, fridge and electrical goods recycling and in the sphere of property development.
"Howie has proved adept at spotting new opportunities and is quick to act upon his instincts," said Gorman.
Chris Giles, of Giles Insurance, and Clift Graham, of Lanarkshire-based ECG Group, were short-listed for the emerging entrepreneur award.
Keith Miller, of the eponymous property to housebuilding group, and Gordon Baxter, of Baxters Food Group, were inducted into the exchange's hall of fame, which honours those who have made a telling contribution to Scotland's entrepreneurial spirit.
Besides Gorman, the judging panel comprised: John Anderson, chief executive of the exchange; Charan Gill, chief executive of Harlequin Leisure Group; David Milne of Wolfson Microelectronics, Entrepreneur of the Year 2003; Brian Johnston of Bank of Scotland; David Leslie of PricewaterhouseCoopers; and Alf Young, policy editor of The Herald.