Name: Sir Roland Smith
Life dates: 1928-2003
Occupation: academic and businessman
Roland Smith was born on 1 October 1928 in Manchester, the son of a police sergeant. He won a scholarship to Burnage Grammar School, and went on to Birmingham University to study economics. He then completed a PhD in economics at Manchester University. After two years' national service in the RAF, he took his first job, in 1955, as an assistant director of the Footwear Manufacturers’ Federation. This was followed, in 1960, by a teaching post as lecturer in economics at Liverpool University. In 1963, he became director of the University's business school. In 1966, he was appointed professor of marketing at he University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), the first professor of marketing in the UK. He became chancellor of UMIST in 1996, a post he held until 2002.
In the late 1960s, Smith took on the first of many business interests. These began with consultancy assignments to such companies as Esso Petroleum, Rio Tinto Zinc, Trust House Forte and GUS. He quickly began to pick up company directorships, the first being the Glow-Worm Boiler and Tower Pans Group. In 1973, he became chairman of Senior Engineering, which he held until 1992.
In 1980, he joined the board of directors of House of Fraser Ltd and was appointed sole deputy chairman. In 1981, following the removal of Sir Hugh Fraser from the chairmanship, he became chairman of the company. There followed a four year struggle with Tiny Rowland of Lonrho for control of the House of Fraser Group, whose prize asset was Harrods. Smith resisted all of Rowland's attempts to unseat him and gain control of House of Fraser. In 1985, he recommended to shareholders that they should accept a takeover offer from the Fayed brothers. After the takeover, in June 1986, Smith resigned as chairman.
In 1987, he took over as chairman of British Aerospace, leading, in 1988, the ill-fated takeover of the Rover Group. He left British Aerospace in 1991, and became chairman of Manchester United plc, a position he held until 2001. He was a director of the Bank of England from 1991 to 1996.
Smith was married to Joan Shaw in 1954, and knighted in 1991. He died on 20 November 2003.
Moss, Michael and Turton, Alison, A Legend of Retailing: House of Fraser, London 1989
Obituaries in the Guardian, Independent and Times, 2003
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