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24 November 2003
The Herald
Three's company provides crowd's worth of talent


SCOTLAND'S entrepreneurial spirit will be recognised later this week at a glittering gala awards ceremony.

The Entrepreneurial Exchange Entrepreneur of the Year 2003 awards will take place before 700 guests at the Hilton hotel in Glasgow on Thursday, in an evening sponsored by The Herald, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the Bank of Scotland.

There are two categories this year:

Emerging Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur of the Year.

There will also be further entrants on the night to the Hall of Fame. Current members are Sir Richard Branson, Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden, Tom Hunter, Sir Tom Farmer, John Boyle, Sir Jackie Stewart, David Moulsdale, Brian Souter, Jim McColl, Richard Emanuel, Willie Haughey, David Sibbald, Arnold Clark, Sam Russell, Ann Gloag, Donald Macdonald, Ian Wood, and Moir Lockhead.

Our preview of the three short-listed finalists in each category concludes with the nominations for Entrepreneur of the Year.

Name: David Milne

Company: Wolfson Microelectronics

Location: Edinburgh

Started: 1985

Employees: 135

Turnover: (pounds) 32m

From PhD physicist to paper millionaire - that is the route taken by David Milne, whose (pounds) 250m flotation of Wolfson Microelectronics last month brought a glow of health to Scotland's pallid hi-tech sector.

The 20-year veteran of the technology business is managing director of Wolfson, which supplies silicon chips used in DVD players and digital cameras.

It was spun out of Edinburgh University after first seeing the light of day as a research project.

The flotation was London's largest new technology listing in three years and reflects the growing optimism that investor appetite and spending on technology are returning after a three-year slump.

Wolfson was seen as significant for Scotland not only as an example of how to survive in a lethal business environment but also of how to become a seriously global company.

It supplies many of the major names in the electronics industry, including Microsoft, Apple, and Sony and has established offices in Japan and Taiwan and a semi-conductor manufacturing partnership in Shanghai. It is expanding in the US and has new customers in Brazil and Turkey.

Although it has not gone out of its way to seek publicity, insiders say the company's strengths emanate from Milne's leadership and his staff's extensive knowledge of the industry - it now employs 135 people.

Constant innovation is also a recurring theme - in the past year, 12 new products have been produced with a further 23 planned for 2004.

Unlike the tech hopefuls of the early part of the millennium, Milne is widely recognised as having built a real company with real technology - and real profits

PWC VERDICT: Since 1985, David Milne has grown Wolfson from a Scottish university spin-out to a global technology leader with blue-chip clients. David's tenacity, drive, and enthusiasm have been justly rewarded.

Name: John McGuire

Company: Phoenix Car Co

Location: Paisley

Started: 1993

Employees: 150

Turnover: (pounds) 60m

The phoenix of legend is a long-lived and highly-regarded bird which is meant to bring 500 years of good luck.

Now John McGuire is on track to make his Phoenix Car company a venerable and durable concern - and his luck is running strongly.

Started in Linwood, Renfrewshire, in 1993, it now covers much of the central belt and plans are afoot for several new sites.

Turnover is now (pounds) 60m and projected to rise to (pounds) 100m - with profits of (pounds) 5m - within the next two years.

However, the bitterly competitive motor trade was the last thing on McGuire's radar when he left St Mirin's Academy in Paisley - where he had been forced to take Latin, instead of the technical subjects of his peers, because he was deemed to be a 'bright' pupil.

Leaving without qualifications, he started working life as a chef, and for many years harboured ambitions of opening his own restaurant.

However, the hours were incompatible with family life, and he entered the car trade, working for famous names such as Ian Skelly and Arnold Clark.

When the time came to take on a franchise of his own Honda was high on the wish list.

Following its success, Phoenix Nissan, Phoenix Mitsubishi, and Phoenix Motown were added to the stable in 1997, along with a body shop.

A year later Phoenix Honda opened in Falkirk and Phoenix Suzuki followed in September 2001.

Within the last three

months, Phoenix has been appointed as the dealer for Kia in the west of Scotland, Citroen in the south side of Glasgow and Mazda in Glasgow.

In the same period, the firm has purchased four new sites in Stirling.

PWC VERDICT: Starting from scratch 10 years ago, John McGuire has built Phoenix Car Company into a multi-franchise dealer.

With a hands-on and energetic leadership style, John is well placed to build on Phoenix's track record of strong organic growth.

Name: Stuart Ross

Company: Belhaven Group

Location: Dunbar

Started: Led MBO in 1993 and successful flotation in 1996

Employees: 1400

Turnover: (pounds) 79.2m

If Stuart Ross was running a pub, he would be an ideal host - in fact, he regularly keeps his hand in by going back to the shop floor to test how customers enjoy the beer.

The chief executive of Belhaven was last spotted pulling pints in a marquee for Edinburgh Fringe events as part of his hands-on management technique.

Never one to shy away from publicity - The Herald's picture archive has a plethora of smiling shots of him holding a pint of Best - his company commands 15% of the drinks distribution market in Scotland, owns more than 200 pubs and distributes to a further 2000.

A holder of both an accountancy and a law degree, he began his working life in the hotel trade, but was increasingly attracted to the brewing side.

He led a management buy-out of Belhaven - then a small brewery in Dunbar - in 1993 and successfully floated the company in 1996. This summer a placing raised another (pounds) 25m to pay for an aggressive expansion campaign which would see it increase its pubs estate to 300 by the end of 2005.

Expansion south of the border is less likely because is more competitive. But Ross has said previously: 'The strategy is to grow in Scotland but there is no line to be drawn at Hadrian's Wall.'

Stuart is determined to maintain a personal service, irrespective of the company's size. While he demands a disciplined approach to business, he actively encourages entrepreneurial flair amongst his team and urges staff to stamp their own personalities on the business.

PWC VERDICT: Having led the MBO of Belhaven in 1993, and subsequent flotation in 1996, Stuart Ross has been the driving force behind 13 years of consecutive profit growth. Recent funds raised on the stock market combined with Stuart's continued leadership will enable the group to further expand its pub estate.


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