The story of Lord Ian MacLaurin | A giant of the retail trade | Chairman of English cricket | Peer of the realm
A chance meeting in the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, whilst on a cricket tour with the Old Boys of Malvern College, led to Ian MacLaurin being taken on by Jack Cohen, founder of Tesco, as his first trainee manager. MacLaurin steadily worked his way up the promotion ladder within the business, from stacking shelves to becoming the first non-Jew as chairman of the company. In the face of considerable opposition from the Cohen family, MacLaurin changed the face of Tesco, from the Green Shield Stamps and pile-‘em-high and sell-‘em-cheap philosophy to the No. 1 retailer in the country.
In 1996, when English cricket was at a low ebb, he was asked to become chairman of the newly-formed England and Wales Cricket Board with the specific goal of streamlining the governance of the game in England, putting it on a more secure financial footing and transforming the fortunes of the England team.
Under his stewardship, central contracts were introduced, a lucrative new broadcasting deal was secured with Sky and Channel 4 and the England team, under captain, Nasser Hussain, and coach, Duncan Fletcher, started to win matches. MacLaurin’s reforms reached their culmination in England winning back the Ashes in 2005, the Greatest Series Ever.
In the meantime, MacLaurin became chairman of Vodafone, as well as non-executive director of numerous companies, was named as Businessman of the Year in 1997, granted a knighthood and was raised to the peerage as Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth.
In 2017, MacLaurin was made president of the MCC, an honour which perhaps gave him the most satisfaction of all the titles and accloades that have come his way during his successful career.
Andy Murtagh has known the MacLaurins for 40 years. Not only was he able to interview his subject on a regular basis, he was put in touch with former collegues of Ian’s at Tesco, particularly David Malpas and John Gildersleeve, his right-hand men in the transformation of the business, in order to gain an insight into the boardroom battles and the internecine strife during this turbulent time. Murtagh was also able to interview Michael Atherton, Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain, the three England captains during Ian’s chairmanship of the ECB, as
well as Tim Lamb, the chief executive, with whom Ian worked hand in hand to revolutionise the game in this country. Furthermore, Murtagh had access to Gerald Corbett, chairman, and Guy Lavender, chief executive, of the MCC, who were able to give their recollections of Ian’s time as president.
All in all, this is a fascinating insight into power politics in big institutions and how Ian MacLaurin changed philosophies and working practices of everywhere he stepped to leave them in a better state than he found them.