James Gerald Gulliver

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James Gerald Gulliver CVO (17 August 1930 – 12 September 1996) was the founder of Argyll Foods, one of the United Kingdom's largest retail businesses.


Born in Campbeltown and educated at the University of Glasgow and Georgia Institute of Technology, Gulliver served for three years in the Royal Navy before joining Urwick Orr & Partners, management consultants.[1] In 1965 he joined Fine Fare where he became chairman within two years.[1] During his time the business grew from a turnover of £75 million to £200 million.

In 1977, together with Alistair Grant, a marketing specialist for whom he had worked with at Fine Fare, and David Webster, a merchant banker, he founded James Gulliver Associates. In September 1978, he bought the meat company belonging to Manchester United chairman Louis Edwards for £100,000 plus shares and renamed it Argyll Foods, acquiring numerous retail concerns including 130 Safeway outlets.[1] Within 10 years of the purchase, the company was worth £1.7 billion. Gulliver also bought 100,000 of Edwards' shares in Manchester United for £250,000 and was given a seat on the club's board of directors (although fellow director and former manager Matt Busby abstained from the vote to give Gulliver a seat, saying he did not know who Gulliver was).[2] Gulliver later became the club's vice-president. He sold his stake in 1986, but retained two seats in the directors' box at the club's Old Trafford ground.[3] He was also the vice-chairman of Heart of Midlothian.[4]

In 1985, he tried unsuccessfully to acquire Distillers but lost the bidding to Guinness. He retired from the business later that year.[1]

He was awarded the CVO for his services to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.[4]

He died in Edinburgh in 1996.[4]


He was married four times, lastly to Melanie, and had 5 children.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e James Gulliver Chairman of Food Group dies at 66 New York Times, 17 September 1996
  2. ^ Dewhurst, Keith (2009). When You Put on a Red Shirt. London: Yellow Jersey Press. p. 258. ISBN 9780224082839. 
  3. ^ Basham, Brian (23 September 1996). "Obituary:James Gulliver". independent.co.uk (Independent Print). Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c RSE Fellowship