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1983: Macgregor named as coal boss
Ian Macgregor, leader of the British Steel Corporation has been named as the new chairman of the National Coal Board.

He will take up his new post on 1 September, Energy Secretary Nigel Lawson announced in the House of Commons this afternoon.

The Scottish born tycoon is to receive an annual salary of 59,000 and 1.5m is to be paid over three years to American bankers Lazard Freres in compensation for his loss as a partner.

This has attracted anger after a rumoured 1.8m was paid to the bank after his appointment to the steel industry in 1980 in a similar package to his former employers.

It is an extraordinarily foolish appointment
Shadow Energy Secretary John Smith
Mr Macgregor, who became a naturalised American after World War II but retains his British citizenship, is charged with finding new markets in which to promote British coal and to revive the ailing industry.

His appointment, described as the worst kept secret in politics ends weeks of speculation, and comes after he turned around losses in the steel industry, mainly after cutting back the work force.

Labour politicians, the National Union of Miners, and some Conservative backbenchers, have condemned his appointment.

Many claim his high profile will detract from the serious issues facing the industry and that a British based executive would have cost less and been more appropriate.

They claim the 70-year-old is too old to take on the enormity of the task.

There are also fears he will introduce job cuts and close pits in order to streamline the industry and make it more profitable.

Shadow Energy Secretary John Smith said no-one in the industry wanted to work with him.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: "It is an extraordinarily foolish appointment, first of all it is politically divisive, it is industrially divisive, the whole work force is more opposed to it and I think all the management in the national coal board."

President of the NUM Arthur Scargill described Mr Magcregor as a "hatchet" man.

"The policies of this government are clear - to destroy the coal mining industry and the NUM," he said.

But Mr Lawson defended the decision describing Mr Macgregor as the "best man for the job".

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Ian Macgregor
Mr Macgregor's appointment was controversial

In Context
The controversial figure was selected for the post because of his success in turning around the loss-making British Steel Corporation by almost halving the workforce.

His tenure at the NCB came at a more turbulent time than he could have predicted as the year long miners' strike took hold in 1984.

During this time he risked abuse and being spat at whenever he went outside.

For many of those who lost their jobs, he became a hate-figure but among senior Tories, including the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he was revered as a visionary and moderniser.

He was honoured with a knighthood a year after the strike ended.

Sir Ian died aged 85 after a heart attack in spring 1998.

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