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Sir Keith Edward Mills, GBE Kt DL (born 15 May 1950, Brentwood) is an English entrepreneur and deputy chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
He attended Brentwood St Martin's County Secondary School for Boys on Hanging Hill Lane in Hutton, Brentwood.
Mills worked for over twenty years in marketing and advertising. Having left school with no qualifications, he started with The Economist at the age of fifteen as a copy assistant and then at the Financial Times and Investors Chronicle, where he was responsible for their marketing programmes. From there he moved into advertising in London. In 1981, he led a management buyout of the London office of the New York-based company Nadler & Larimer, becoming the chief executive. In 1985 he found Mills, Smith & Partners. He is also a non-executive director at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
Sir Keith is chiefly known for inventing the Air Miles (in 1988) and Nectar Card (in 2002) loyalty card schemes. It diversified into other types of product, also being used by Shell petrol stations.
Air Miles was set up in 1988 when Sir Keith started the Loyalty Management Group, then known as Air Miles International Group BV. He had the idea in 1987 when working at his advertising agency, which had Shell and British Caledonian as clients who were looking to make the most of their customer base without devaluing the image of the products. People would buy Air Miles from Shell petrol to use on British Caledonian. He approached British Airways and they liked the idea. He then sold similar ideas to in the USA and Canada, moving to the USA in 1990. In 1993, the US Air Miles system collapsed, costing him £15m. In 1994, his 49% sharehold of the scheme was sold to British Airways, although he still retains the intellectual property rights.
Loyalty Management UK was started in 2001, which produced the Nectar Card in September, 2002. In December 2007, the company was sold for £350m to the Canadian company Aeroplan, in which he had 46% of sharehold, netting £160m.
From September 2003, he became Chief Executive and International President of the London 2012 campaign which saw London selected as host for the 2012 Summer Olympics. He is now Deputy Chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. At the end of the project Mills was awarded the Olympic Order.
Coutts AIG action
The same month that Loyalty Management UK was sold, Sir Keith bought £73m of the "enhanced fund" version of AIG Life "premier bonds" on the advice of Coutts, the private bank owned by Royal Bank of Scotland. Coutts recommended to Sir Keith that he place his money in AIG Life Premier Bonds as a way of protecting his capital. They also said it would be a safe alternative to bank deposits and would earn a slightly better interest rate. Coutts said Sir Keith's money would be safe, as AIG was the largest insurance company in the world, AA rated, and that the bonds would provide instant access to his money, just like a deposit account. Later, given the negative press reports about the future of AIG, Sir Keith queried Coutts, in writing, the safety of keeping his money with AIG. Coutts replied that they did not have concerns about these bonds, so Sir Keith retained them. AIG Life is a UK subsidiary of American International Group, the US insurer rescued by the US Federal Reserve on September 16, 2008. As a direct result of this and the following actions Sir Keith is the moving force behind the website http://www.couttsaigactiongroup.org/
He married Maureen in 1974; they have two children and live near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Lady Mills supports her husband's charity work and support for sport, including the successful bid for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.
Mills was knighted in the 2006 New Year Honours in recognition of his services to sport. He was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
- "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". bath.ac.uk. University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- HBR Dec 5 2005 9-505-031
- Keith Mills
- http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5212b798-7b0e-11de-8c34-00144feabdc0.html, Sir Keith counts the cost of a weak link
- "Lady Maureen Mills".
- Cabinet Office (28 December 2012). "New Year Honours: New Year 2013 Honours List – Higher Awards". Cabinet Office. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- The London Gazette: . 29 December 2012.