The Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise
Simon Adam Wolfson
27 October 1967
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
Simon Adam Wolfson, Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise (born 27 October 1967) is a British businessman and currently chief executive of the clothing retailer Next plc and a Conservative life peer. He is the son of former Next chairman David Wolfson, Baron Wolfson of Sunningdale, also a Conservative life peer.
Early life and career
He attended Radley College, near Abingdon, followed by studying law at Trinity College, Cambridge. Wolfson joined Next as its most highly paid sales consultant ever, in its Kensington branch in 1991 for several weeks, the year his father was granted his peerage. The following year, he was taken on as assistant to Next's chief executive, David Jones. Wolfson was elevated within the company rapidly, being appointed to the board of directors in 1997, culminating in his appointment as chief executive in August 2001 but leading at least one city analyst to make allegations of nepotism. At the age of 33, this made him the youngest chief executive of a FTSE 100 company. He was one of the first businesspeople to predict the 2008–9 economic crisis.
Relationship with staff
In 2013, he waived his £2.4 million bonus and gave it to the staff of Next who had been with the company since 2010. Wolfson earned £4.6m in 2013 at a time when the average pay of Next employees was £10,000. This led the GMB trade union supported by Paul Heaton to tour Next shops presenting anti-social behaviour awards to managers for their failure to provide a living wage. In 2014, for a second successive year, Wolfson waived his bonus and distributed it among staff, sharing some £3.8m. In May Retail Week reported that Next staff would be up to £1000 a year worse off after the company decided not to pay a premium for staff working on a Sunday. Those refusing a change of employment terms were allegedly told they risked being made redundant. The GMB union accused Wolfson of having a "total disregard for family life." In April 2017, the salaries of some of Next's most senior staff were cut following a 3.8% fall in profits though Wolfson's salary was raised by 1%.
He is a prominent supporter of the Conservative Party, having donated to David Cameron's campaign in the 2005 leadership election and co-chaired the party's Economic Competitiveness policy review. He was named by The Daily Telegraph as the 37th-most important British conservative in 2007. He was one of 35 signatories to an open letter calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, to press ahead with the coalition government's plans to reduce the public finance deficit in one term in the face of opposition.
On 18 June 2010, Wolfson was created Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise, of Aspley Guise in the County of Bedfordshire, and was introduced in the House of Lords on 6 July 2010. As of December 2016, he has a less than average attendance record for the House, and has spoken in the House on only 3 occasions since his entering the House in 2010, well below average for the House.
He voted loyally to the Conservatives in favour of working tax credit cuts in October 2015.
Views on Brexit
Wolfson has been described as the businessman most in favour of Brexit, calling for radical change to prevent a long period of low growth. Talking to The Times, he predicted a very difficult 2016 for Next though he blamed a change in customer spending habits rather than uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Following the success of the Leave campaign, whilst most businessmen urged the Government not to rush proceedings, Wolfson said Britain's success now depended on the tone of trade negotiations, including with China, India and other global economies. However, in January 2017 Wolfson, who had warned the UK economy would collapse if the government failed to get trade agreements in place said the Government should declare its negotiating objectives and not rush things. Wolfson also blamed a "far worse than expected" slump in Next's share price and the issuing of a profit warning, on customers preferring non-clothing Christmas presents. The company, whose share price halved in 2016, warned that the Brexit devaluation would add 5% to prices and lead to further reduction in business.
In December 2016, Wolfson was appointed to the Chair of the Eurosceptic think-tank.
The Wolfson Economics Prize
Wolfson is the founder of the £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize.
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