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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 07:35 GMT
Business giant Lord Hanson dies
Lord Hanson
Lord Hanson was a major donor to the Conservative party
Lord Hanson, one of the most successful and influential businessmen of the past 50 years, has died aged 82.

As James Hanson, he built Hanson into one of the most powerful industrial conglomerates in the country through a series of fierce takeover battles.

In its heyday Hanson's company was worth more than 11bn and had interests ranging from tobacco to chemicals.

Lord Hanson, who had been suffering from cancer, retired in 1997 but remained in the public spotlight.

He died at his home in Newbury, Berkshire.

Business fortune

He was a life-long Conservative supporter and one of the party's largest financial donors during the 1980s.

Lord Hanson was born in Huddersfield in 1922; his family owned a large haulage firm which was nationalised in 1948.

He was a giant during his time
Lord Young of Graffham

After launching a business in Canada with his brother Bill, Lord Hanson returned to England to form Jet Petroleum which he then sold to Conoco for 12.5m in the 1950s.

With his close friend and ally Gordon White - later Lord White - he went on to set up the eponymous firm which was to make him a household name in 1964.

Over the next 30 years, Hanson went on an unprecedented acquisition spree, transforming itself into one of Britain's largest and most powerful companies.

The zenith of Hanson's fortunes, arguably, came in 1986 when it fought a vicious but ultimately successful takeover battle to acquire Imperial Tobacco.

But it later failed in an equally daring attempt to take over chemicals giant ICI.

In 1996 Lord Hanson decided to split the company into four separate businesses: Energy Group, Millennium Chemicals, Imperial Tobacco and Hanson plc.

Hanson is now a building materials group with about 30,000 employees around the world.

'Role model'

Lord Young of Graffham, who was Trade and Industry Secretary during the late 1980s described Lord Hanson as "a giant during his time".

The old advertising slogan was ' A company from here doing rather well over there' - and I think that really does epitomise the trend he set
Digby Jones, CBI director general

"He really built himself up during the 60s and 70s at a time when frankly it wasn't fashionable for people to build up good businesses," Lord Young told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He said accusations that Lord Hanson was an asset stripper were inaccurate.

"Of course he had critics, because he had strong political views," he said.

"He was very much against the idea of going into the euro, he was very much against the idea, long before, of nationalisation, and he was someone who was never afraid of coming forward.

"I think at the time he was a role model for many people starting up because here was a man who went out, started a group and built up a very big business."


CBI director general Digby Jones said Lord Hanson's cross investments in the US, with Lord White, would be his "lasting legacy".

"The two of them really did do something very special about investing in America," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"Today we invest more in America than the rest of Europe put together and a lot of that was down to this pioneering spirit.

"The old advertising slogan was ' A company from here doing rather well over there' - and I think that really does epitomise the trend he set."

How Lord Hanson left his mark on the business world

Herald Tribune Britain's Lord James Hanson Dies at 82 - 25 hrs ago
Los Angeles TimesJames Hanson, 82; Briton Built Conglomerate Worth $28 Billion, Was a Margaret Thatcher Ally - 28 hrs ago
The Scotsman Corporate giant and Thatcherite Lord Hanson dies - 47 hrs ago
IC Huddersfield Much feared in business and favourite of Thatcher - 49 hrs ago
Daily Mail 'Lord Moneybags' dies aged 82 - 52 hrs ago
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