jueves, 31 de marzo de 2011

Edward Stobart - Telegraph.co.uk

"I fought against the rough-looking driver," he recalled. "A lot of them looked no better than tramps. It took quite a few years before people saw where we were going and what we were trying to achieve."

In the early days he would polish the lorries himself after the drivers had gone home, often grabbing a few hours of sleep on the shelf of a filing cabinet in the office in between dashing out to hose down a dirty truck or volunteering to pick up a late load at night. When lorries needed to be replaced, he always bought new (at considerable personal expense) when others advised buying second-hand.

The company's rapid growth owes much to deregulation during the Eighties, but Edward Stobart had the vision to exploit the changing times. The decade saw a development of the motorways and expansion of large out-of-town supermarkets. Lorries soon took over from trains as the fastest and cheapest way to transport cargo. By 1985 the firm had expanded from eight lorries to 26 and annual sales of more than £1 million.

In 1986 Stobart brought in a new management team, including his younger brother William, and the firm moved to a new industrial estate on the north side of Carlisle, closer to the M6. This site had better vehicle facilities and warehouse capacity to cope with increased demand for an integrated storage and distribution service. The company continued to gain new business, and several more depots were opened. By the mid-1980s it was growing at about 25 per cent a year. By 2000 the company had more than 800 lorries and 22 depots.

It was Eddie senior who began the tradition of giving Eddie Stobart's lorries female names. The first three were named after the Sixties' model Twiggy and the singers Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. Edward continued the tradition, with more recent vehicles being named after Ffion Hague (following a request from her husband, William), Paris Hilton, Trinny and Susannah and Fiona Phillips.

The policy of inscribing their names on the front of the cab helped to attract a 35,000-strong fan club of Stobart-spotters who log truck sightings on a club website, along with registration number, fleet number and girl's name. No doubt there are millions of parents who have relieved the tedium of a car journey by channelling their children's boredom into Stobart-spotting.

By the new century, Eddie Stobart diversified into retailing miniature Eddie Stobart lorries and other toys – a business worth £3.5 million – along with other merchandise emblazoned with the company's logo. There was even a paint colour called Eddie Stobart Green; a series of children's books featuring Steady Eddie, the big-hearted lorry; and an Eddie Stobart rail service, powered by Eddie the Engine, from the Midlands to Scotland. Tony Blair's youngest son, Leo, used to play with Eddie Stobart miniature lorries in 10 Downing Street.

Yet, by contrast to all the marketing razzamatazz, Edward Stobart avoided the limelight and rarely gave interviews to journalists, remaining the publicity-shy mastermind behind the enterprise. His business philosophy remained a simple one: "We never turn any customer away and we always do it at the right price. We are always smart, tidy – the best at everything. We have the smartest drivers and the smartest trucks and we do our job well, which is why people notice us and why we are a success."

One of four children of strongly Christian parents, Edward Stobart was born on November 21 1954 at his parents' house just outside Hesket Newmarket near Carlisle. Neither he nor his younger brother William showed any promise at school and both were hampered by a stammer. When he left school at 15 he had been labelled an academic failure by his teachers.

By 2002, with more than 1,000 lorries on the road, Eddie Stobart was facing problems because of the high cost of fuel. The company posted its first loss, and in 2004 Edward Stobart sold his 55 per cent interest to his brother William, who already owned 45 per cent, and his business partner Andrew Tinkler, of the railway infrastructure company WA Developments.

Stobart had many of the spoils that go with business success – a Ferrari and a huge house built at the firm's headquarters in Carlisle – but before he retired from the business he admitted that work was his real hobby: "I don't really do much else – I did have a speedboat, but I sold it."

Edward Stobart and his first wife, Sylvia, had four adopted children. He also had two children by his second wife, Mandy.

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