Relishing challenges in the steel industry

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Ask Tony Pedder about his most enjoyable time in the steel industry and he will tell you it was at British Steel Stainless in Sheffield.

But, he is quick to add, that doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy the other roles he had during a career in steel that started with Monty Finniston at the helm of British Steel and ended with him captaining British Steel’s successor.

In the meantime, Tony Pedder had experienced the 1980 steel strike under Charles Villiers, rationalisation and the start of privatisation with Ian MacGregor – later to head the National Coal Board during the year- long miners strike – and international mergers with Bob Scholey.

“Stainless was smallish and it was a case of turning it round from loss to creating significant profits. I had a great time,” says Mr Pedder.

“When I got to General Steels, I was getting a bit further from the ‘deck.’ There is always a danger that as the business gets bigger, you cannot be on the deck that much.”

Of all the chiefs he worked for, Ian MacGregor and Bob Scholey particularly stand out for Mr Pedder.

“Ian MacGregor ticked off my appointment as a director,” he says, which is a good enough reason to remember him, but there is more.

“He was a very interesting guy, very commercial. He’d been involved in coal and metals. He knew a lot of people, had tremendous contacts and liked to talk about commercial terms and deals.

“He was very much the guy that liked the deal.”

There is no doubt that Tony Pedder relished working with Bob Scholey.

Bluff speaking ‘Black Bob,’ as he was known from his days in Sheffield, before rising up British Steel’s corporate tree in London, was not known for having a forgiving nature and would never suffer fools gladly.

Some might have resented being loaded up with more responsibilities. Tony Pedder’s reaction is quite the opposite.

“I was so lucky. I was given more responsibility and enjoyed it. I was so fortunate at British Steel,” he says.

Both men were closely involved in the privatisation of British Steel and subsequent acquisition of Hoogovens.

“I was heading up Stainless when we started the privatisation and I got involved in doing the road shows.

“Steel had always been political. It was so big when it was a nationalised industry and it inevitably affected MPs constituencies. Privatisation pushed the political pendulum back a bit and brought other issues into sharper focus.

“The company became more conscious of cash management than policy management. It felt as if you could get on and run the business.

“When we put Hoogovens and Chorus together, it involved working massively long hours, but it’s very enjoyable to pull off something as significant as that. When I look back I think I was very fortunate to be involved.”