William Willson (businessman)

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Stanley William Willson, MBE (May 1927[1]-25 December 2003[citation needed]), Chartered Accountant, was chairman of Aston Martin from 1972–1975.

In February 1972 Willson, "an ebullient entrepreneur"[2] along with other investors paid £101[3] to buy Aston Martin's business, then reputed to be losing more than £1 million a year, from David Brown Limited which was experiencing its own financial troubles.[1] The new owner was Company Developments his 4 year-old Solihull investment concern chaired by Willson who then became chairman of Aston Martin.[4]

He appointed one of his co-directors of Company Developments, Geoffrey Fletcher, a property and building expert, as managing director and mechanical engineer, Harry Pollack, as technical director. Mr David Brown accepted presidency of Aston Martin with a seat on the board of directors. At the time Aston Martin had 500 employees.[1] David Brown was later reported to have paid off Aston Martin's debts thought to be about £5 million.

Three months after Willson's firm took control a re-invigorated Aston Martin brought out two new models and the business was recovering.[citation needed] But in July 1974 a request for state aid of £500,000 was turned down. Mr Robert Maxwell offered to provide £100,000 of the required funds. Aston's 500 workers agreed to forgo wage rises for 12 months and they were given the opportunity to participate in a share-buying scheme. The shop floor gave management a unanimous vote of confidence. The reason for cash flow difficulties was given as California's stringent exhaust emission tests halting Aston Martin's US sales.[5] Owners were reported to have sent in cheques for £1,000 and more. Mr Robert Maxwell, again contesting (unsuccessfully) the local seat in Parliament, was reported driving a newly-acquired Aston Martin.[6]

A few days later it was revealed another, second, request for government funds had been for £1,250,000[7] but three months later on New Year's Eve it was announced on the front pages of national press that while a much smaller government loan of £600,000 had been approved besides being inadequate it had been offered on the unacceptable condition that US sales would be handled by British Leyland's distributors. The same front page report noted directors had requested the appointment of a receiver and Aston Martin would go into voluntary liquidation.[8]

The receiver sold the business as a going concern in March 1975 for about £1,050,000 to a consortium led by Californian Peter Sprague (chairman of National Semiconductor) with Canadian George Minden and Jeremy Turner a London businessman.[9][10]

Lengthy and public wrangling with Sprague over price arose from Willson's concern, over-ridden by the receiver, to achieve a better price for the Aston Martin business. At the offer price of £1,050,000 unsecured creditors would (and did) receive less than 10 pence in the pound and his own Company Developments would receive only £500,000 in repayment of a £750,000 loan.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c David Brown sells Aston Martin. The Times, Friday, Feb 18, 1972; pg. 15; Issue 58405
  2. ^ Motoring. Stuart Marshall. The Times, Thursday, Apr 04, 1974; pg. 37; Issue 59056
  3. ^ Modified offer 'only hope left for Aston'. The Times, Wednesday, Mar 19, 1975; pg. 22; Issue 59348
  4. ^ Third Aston offer by Mr Sprague. The Times, Saturday, Mar 22, 1975; pg. 17; Issue 59351
  5. ^ Aston Martin requests state aid for cooperative with worker-directors. The Times, Tuesday, Sep 24, 1974; pg. 17; Issue 59200
  6. ^ Business Diary. The Times, Thursday, Sep 26, 1974; pg. 21; Issue 59202
  7. ^ £1.25m loan asked for by Aston Martin. The Times, Monday, Sep 30, 1974; pg. 19; Issue 59205
  8. ^ Closure of Aston Martin firm today. The Times, Monday, Dec 30, 1974; pg. 1; Issue 59281
  9. ^ Aston chairman's Benn challenge. The Times , Wednesday, Mar 12, 1975; pg. 20; Issue 59342
  10. ^ Aston Martin bid final, consortium says. The Times, Friday, Apr 04, 1975; pg. 19; Issue 59361
  11. ^ Parting protest over Aston Martin deal. The Times, Saturday, Apr 12, 1975; pg. 17; Issue 59368