Michael Edwardes, Laborious-Nosed Rescuer of British Automotive Big, Dies at 88

Michael Edwardes, a famously pugnacious industrial turnaround artist in Britain who rescued the Jaguar, Mini and Land Rover automotive manufacturers within the late 1970s whereas turning into a union scourge, died on Sept. 15 at his residence outdoors London. He was 88.

The trigger was issues of Parkinson’s illness, in response to Caroline Watkin, a household pal.

In some methods, Mr. Edwardes (pronounced the identical means as Edwards) was the Lee A. Iacocca of Britain. At roughly the identical time that Mr. Iacocca (who died in July) was saving Chrysler, partially by persuading the USA authorities to supply an inflation-adjusted $5 billion in mortgage ensures, Mr. Edwardes was making an attempt to jump-start British Leyland, a government-owned automobile large whose manufacturers included Austin, Morris, Mini, Jaguar, MG, Land Rover and Triumph.

Every man got here to personify company boldness, reputations they burnished by writing best-selling enterprise memoirs.

Mr. Edwardes, who spent the early a part of his profession fixing elements of Chloride, a battery producer, took over as British Leyland’s chairman in 1977. It was a last-gasp rescue effort: The British authorities had assumed management of the corporate in a 1975 bailout, and the corporate was virtually bankrupt once more. Turnaround plans had gone nowhere, a results of near-constant employee walkouts, shoddy craftsmanship, disaffected managers and a convoluted company construction. Japanese and German rivals have been gobbling up market share.

That shuffling, which Mr. Edwardes recounted in his memoir, “Again from the Brink” (1983), was knowledgeable by one other of his uncommon enterprise practices: psychological testing for managers. He believed such assessments might determine reliable staff. However the technique was startling to others. “Such management freakery was anathema,” John Fryer, a former labor editor at The Sunday Instances, wrote in a current column.

Mr. Edwardes left British Leyland in 1982. He was credited with serving to British enterprise leaders regain their self-confidence, notably those that had come to really feel powerless within the face of organized labor. And British Leyland had been saved.

However the firm remained unprofitable, and the British authorities — by then being led by Margaret Thatcher — had grown pissed off. Mr. Edwardes had pushed Mrs. Thatcher for cash to develop new fashions; when she steered that he promote elements of the corporate to boost funds, he balked.

By the point British Leyland obtained its final authorities bailout, in 1988, it had gone by means of some $20 billion of inflation-adjusted taxpayer cash over twenty years and develop into a painful lesson on the restricted effectiveness of bailouts. The corporate advanced into MG Rover, which was acquired by BMW, then spun off earlier than ultimately going bankrupt in 2005. Jaguar and Rover at the moment are owned by Tata Group, a conglomerate based mostly in India. BMW nonetheless owns Mini.

Michael Owen Edwardes was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on Oct. 11, 1930, to Denys and Audrey (Copeland) Edwardes. His father labored at a small automotive firm.

Mr. Edwardes studied legislation at Rhodes College in close by Grahamstown. In 1951, by means of a household connection, he acquired a job at Chloride. In 1958, he married Mary Finlay, the daughter of a South African transport govt. That they had three daughters earlier than divorcing in 1988, when he married his assistant, Sheila Witts.

His work at British Leyland made him well-known in Britain, and he went on to guide one smaller-scale turnaround (or sale) after one other — Mercury Communications, Worldwide Computer systems Restricted, the Dunlop tire firm. He favored fast, dramatic strikes; on his first day at Dunlop, he ousted 11 of the corporate’s 13 board members, one thing The Instances of London deemed “administration by hara-kiri.”

Mr. Edwardes was named within the late 1980s to guide Minorco, a part of the Oppenheimer-DeBeers gold and diamond syndicate. There he devised a hostile bid for Consolidated Gold Fields, a serious mining firm. However Consolidated Gold punched again exhausting, and Minorco was compelled to stroll away when a United States choose refused to permit the takeover to proceed on antitrust grounds.

Somewhat than recalling that defeat in bitter phrases, Mr. Edwardes appeared to understand Consolidated Gold’s mettle.

“I relish a great problem and a little bit of a combat if that’s what it takes,” he informed the commerce journal Administration In the present day in 1996. “You could possibly say I’m a little bit of a scrapper.”

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