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Sir Ian Wood - Times Online

A tough time for Aberdeen-based oil services operation Wood Group. Last summer, with oil prices at a record high, the firm was worth £2.6 billion. Since then, the price of oil has crashed and its value has fallen to £1.2 billion. Chairman Wood, 66, and his family have a £353m stake in the operation. Share sales add £430m to their wealth. We add £14m for JW Holdings, Wood's fishing business, and knock off £50m for a charitable trust set up by the family to help development in the Third World.

Sir Ian Wood - Wikipedia

Sir Ian Wood is the Scottish billionaire and chairman of the UK-based engineering company, Wood Group. He was born in Aberdeen where he was educated at Robert Gordon's College and graduated from Aberdeen University in 1964. He was Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Wood Group from 1982-2007, until he stepped down from his role as CEO in 2007. Since 2004, he has been the Chancellor of Robert Gordon University.

Honours and awards include:

* Young Scottish Businessman of the Year in 1979
* CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1982 in the New Year's Honours List
* Honorary Degree of LL.D from Aberdeen University in 1984
* Knighthood in the 1994 New Year's Honours List.
* Honorary Degree of DBA from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen in 1998.


An Evening With...Sir Ian Wood, Cbe

* 23 October 2008 -

In this event, Sir Ian talked about how he grew his business into the hugely successful Wood Group, winning numerous business awards along the way.

Here are some comments/key tips taken from delegates who attended this event:

"Excellent presentation from Sir Ian, it was inspirational and he had a totally grounded attitude and sound advice"

"Key tips - It is all about the right people in the right positions. Differentiate yourself from the opposition. Commitment to a change and innovation culture. Give back with the reward of success in a structured form of investment"

"Great to hear from one of the big players yet again. People was the key thing that came out of this for me"

"Make your staff feel rewarded"

"Value was the insight and advice into the key areas of:

Business growth and development

Business culture, values and ethics

Global operations"

"Key tips - people, people, people"

"Just the opportunity to listen to the experiences that helped Sir Ian on his way to building a successful organisation. Great networking opportunity"

"Get the basics right, never avoid the discomfort zone, measure your main KPI's and there is never only one right way"

"Sir Ian was just fantastic! Keep up the good work"

"Key tips - People mistakes - deal with them! It is a changing world - spend time looking at potential effects on business and planning how to react (not that I wasn't already doing that of course!)"

"Sir Ian was an inspiring speaker with a lot of good wisdom - made a lot of notes"

"The importance of people focus within a business"

"Terrific talk - very inspiring and topical"

"An opportunity to hear from a true global business leader and to reflect on how my organisation and my own personal style stand up to some of the challenges posed by Sir Ian"

"NEVER forget how important people are to success"

"Sir Ian is a very impressive and inspiring individual who appears to have a great deal of integrity"

"Wonderful insight into personal psyche/business acumen"

"People are the most important elements of a company"

"Securing Sir Ian to travel to speak to us is to be highly commended, well done. Great guy with a huge wealth of experience"

"Value was through networking and listening to an inspirational speaker"

"I like how we look after our new members and think their impression must be very high"

"It was another well organised great evening. Keep up the good work"

"Value - inspiration, big picture and networking"

"Well done - a great event - gave me lots to think about"

"Great event and would encourage more of the same. Thank you for the evening"

"Sir Ian was absolutely brilliant"

"The emphasis on people was greater than any other overview that I have seen. In many ways it mirrors my own thoughts/experience of people matters - so it gives me confidence to be stronger in this area"


Tom Smith and Sir Ian Wood address IoD on economic development

Tom Smith, Chairman of ACSEF, and Sir Ian Wood are to present their vision of economic development in Aberdeen City and Shire at the next IoD networking lunch on Thursday, May 14.

Tom Smith, himself a former IoD Aberdeen chairman, will present an update on the progress ACSEF is making in delivering the Building on Energy economic development strategy. Sir Ian Wood will talk about the specific proposal to create a new civic heart for Aberdeen at Union Terrace Gardens.

Commenting on the event, Ken McEwen, chairman of IoD Aberdeen and partner in an Aberdeenshire public relations consultancy, said:
"Particularly in the current uncertain market conditions everyone is keen to understand future plans to secure a strong business future for Aberdeen City and Shire.

"This lunch is a great opportunity for business people to find out more about ACSEF's development strategy. It will also be fascinating to hear from Sir Ian Wood about his enthusiasm and personal commitment to creating a new civic area in the centre of Aberdeen."



Sir Ian Wood -

Sir Ian Wood is a philanthropist who thinks, and acts, both locally and globally. Through the work of the Wood Family Trust (WFT), whose mission is to help develop and support individuals to become contributing members of their communities, he predominantly focuses on developing economic opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa and the development of young people in the UK.

Influenced by the ethos of his family’s business, Wood Group, the global energy services firm founded in 1970, which sees itself as a ‘good citizen company’, Sir Ian soon became involved in the business of corporate philanthropy and community projects.

“We are all part of the same humanity – we must all contribute to humanity, not just take from it,” says Sir Ian. “Our company has benefited from globalisation and so should assume responsibility for some of the global problems.”

The Wood Group was involved with community and corporate philanthropy from its early inception, and while he was inspired by the company’s philanthropy, in setting up his family trust in 2007, Sir Ian, his wife and three sons took a fresh look at what causes they would support.

True to his belief and experiences in working with global communities, Sir Ian felt a responsibility to help people help themselves and improve their economic livelihood. He intends to give away £50m over the next 5-10 years, and his choices of causes to support “come from the heart balanced with a look at some of the core issues in society”, and a common theme of the Trust’s projects in the UK is tolerance, citizenship and enterprise.

Establishing a foundation was the most effective way Sir Ian could see to effectively facilitate giving away his money, providing a structure to help formalise plans and introduce more discipline. For Sir Ian it also provides a platform to talk to partners and other funders.

WFT has three clear areas of investment focus: economic development in Sub Sahara Africa; Developing young people in Scotland and Volunteering overseas; The Trust is “not in the aid business, we are seeking to make a long-term difference through supporting sustainable initiatives which deal with the root causes of our funding portfolios”

Sir Ian’s personal involvement in the Trust is essential to his belief in empowering individuals and communities. “You must get directly involved to give effectively, and good philanthropy shares a lot of the same principles as good business – you need good people and performance.”

Garreth Wood, Sir Ian’s youngest son is very involved with the Trust, alongside his father. “We have had a good debate on the benefits of ‘aid’ v ‘livelihood’, for instance,” says Sir Ian, “and doing this as a family means a shared interest and bond.”

“We typically provide capacity building, network, and collaboration as well as funding to our funded projects, we recognise that effective performance does not just rely purely on a financial transaction.” Meeting people, the satisfaction of seeing the impact and changing people’s lives in a positive way in the longer term are the rewards Sir Ian gains from the Trust’s work.

One of Sir Ian’s flagship programmes in Scotland is the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative, which will see Scottish pupils identifying grassroots charities making a positive contribution to their community. Having learnt how to analyse the charity’s management, budget and strategy, teams give a presentation on why their proposed charity deserves the £3,000 support. The programme aims to hit the majority of secondary schools in Scotland. “This programme emulates a very important core value of our Trust, developing tolerant and caring citizens and we are very excited by the impact this will have on young people in Scotland.”

Sir Ian wants to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of his giving. “As the Trust was just founded last year we see this stage as a learning experience, and our approach is still evolving.”

His advice to budding philanthropists – “watch your head v heart. You can lead by your heart, but your head must come into it too!”



Sir Ian Wood pledges £50m to create new heart for Aberdeen - 12 Nov 2008

At His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen and in front of an audience that included First Minister Alex Salmond, Wood, one of Scotland's wealthiest businessmen, outlined plans to donate up to £50million for the creation of a new square in the centre of Aberdeen.

The North Sea oil magnate is backing and funding plans to create a city-centre square above the valley incorporating Union Terrace Gardens, the Denburn dual carriageway and the main Aberdeen-Inverness rail line.

The aim is to convert the five-acre site into a square which would look to combine the features of a grand Italian piazza with a miniature version of New York's Central Park.

Sir Ian commented: “In my young days, Union Street was both the main retail centre and the heart - a street which ranked among the best in Scotland”

He continued: “Sadly, it is now a shadow of its former glory and, with some exceptions, lacks any real distinction and quality. The vision is to develop a new street-level city centre square, a transformational project aimed at putting the heart back into Aberdeen.”

Alex Salmond said of Sir Ian's plans: "It stands in the best possible examples of the tradition of Scottish philanthropy. It is an extraordinary commitment."

Sir Ian faces major opposition, however, from Peacock Visual Arts, which already has plans approved for a new contemporary arts centre on the site.

The Peacock scheme for the Gardens has full planning permission and over 70% of the funding and, while they are willing to try resolve the issue with Sir Ian in an attempt to benefit all, any delay in proceedings will most likely mean losing their design team, architect and campaign team, immediate redundancies at Peacock, and the loss of their funding package which is time-limited.


Profile: In the school of hard Knox: Sir Ian Wood: Britain's northernmost tycoon looks beyond oil.

DAVID BOWEN - Sunday, 9 January 1994

SIR IAN WOOD is a teetotaller and self-confessed workaholic who travels economy class on airliners and describes himself as the 'John Knox member' of the Royal Bank of Scotland board. So it was rather a surprise to track him down at Les Deux Alpes, the French ski resort.

But no doubt even Knox needed his holidays, and when better to take one than in the wake of a prestigious new year's present? Wood has been a Sir for a week now, and is bemused by his new moniker. 'I haven't even begun to get used to it,' he says.

Many others will be bemused too, for Wood's name stands out among the six new year business knights for its lack of celebrity. The others - Brian Pearse of Midland Bank, Iain Vallance of BT, Roger Neville of Sun Alliance, Michael Perry of Unilever and Richard Sykes of Glaxo - are all in the City mainstream. Few Sassenachs outside the oil business will have heard of Ian Wood. But he is well known in Scotland; and in his home city of Aberdeen he is celebrated. For Sir Ian, head of one of the UK's largest, most successful private companies, is Britain's most northerly tycoon.

Wood Group had sales of pounds 250m in the past year, 25 per cent higher than the year before. In 1992 it made a pre-tax profit of pounds 18.5m, and though the low oil price could well take a toll, the company has been untouched by the mainstream recession. In addition Sir Ian controls JW Group, which owns fish farms and has interests in 50 trawlers; it makes about pounds 1m profit a year. As he and his family own all JW and more than 70 per cent of the main group, they are firmly in Britain's club of super-rich.

Sir Ian, 51, tall, craggy and bewhiskered, has built up a great empire on the back of the North Sea oil boom. His company provides specialist services and personnel to the industry: inter alia it refurbishes living accommodation, supplies fire- fighting equipment and carries out a range of specialist engineering work. It employs 2,500 people and, he believes, should double in size in the next four years.

It all started by mistake. In the summer of 1964, the 22-year-old Ian Wood had just finished his degree at Aberdeen University. He had a First in psychology, and had been offered an assistant lectureship at the university. 'I'd not really thought about going into business,' he says. 'My mother wanted me to be a professional.'

But he agreed to spend that summer helping his father in the family company. John Wood had started in ship repair, and by now owned half a dozen trawlers. With 90 employees, it was one of many Aberdonian companies making a living from the sea. Ian's holiday job was rather more responsible than most - he was given charge of the trawler business. Very soon, he says, 'I found I could make things happen - and so many things needed to be changed.' He told his father he would stay on for a year, by the end of which he had forgotten all about academia.

It was not difficult to make improvements. 'Aberdeen's fishing industry was not the most challenging industrial environment,' he says. 'And I was ambitious. I was either going to change things or do something else.'

Also, he says, 'I picked up the principles of business quite quickly.' Wood found his background in psychology helpful. 'Business is all about understanding people's motivations. But people often hide their real feelings behind a front.'

Another attribute marked him out from the average Aberdeen fish executive. From the beginning he worked 16 hours a day. He still does, although he insists: 'I work only until 2pm or 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays, to tidy up ready for the week ahead.' It helps that he does not drink and is fit: he played rugby for his college, and still plays squash and tennis, goes hill-walking - and of course skis.

By 1967, when his father handed him control of the group, he had expanded the fleet to 20 and multiplied the workforce by five. The following year he moved into fish processing. But it was not until 1972 that the company set off in pursuit of oil. The first North Sea oil was struck in 1969, and in the next two years a series of finds, including the giant Forties and Brent fields, were made. But in Aberdeen, Sir Ian says, 'No one had the slightest idea that there would be any major long-term change.'

He himself believed oil might add useful turnover. In 1972, he changed his mind. The perceptive chairman of Aberdeen County Council, Maitland Mackie, corralled a group of Aberdonian businessmen and took them to Houston, which was whirring with oil-stimulated activity. 'I hadn't a clue what I was going for, but it was a complete eureka experience,' Sir Ian says. 'I came back and said, 'We've got it wrong. We're going to have to form new companies and take on new people.' ' He went to London to talk to oil executives. 'I said, 'Am I reading this correctly?' They said, 'Yes you are'.'

He was also piqued by the arrival in Aberdeen of tall-walking Texans who, he says, 'would hand out crumbs from the table to local companies. They were a bit patronising.'

His first move was to pay pounds 1m for a shipyard in Torry, increasing his company's size by 75 per cent. Then he started to invest, and was soon offering a range of basic services - fabrication space, accommodation, lorries. His father was bewildered by the change. 'We took a big stand at the first Abderdeen oil exhibition in 1975. My father asked how much it had cost. I told him, pounds 8,000 or pounds 10,000. He said, 'Do you really know what you're doing?' He could have built two fishing vessels for that in the Fifties.'

Wood Group started to grow rapidly, making acquisitions and taking risks - but not too many. 'I've got a good Scottish streak in me,' he says. Inevitably, that means his big regrets have been over risks not taken. 'We could have bought an oil exploration company called Expro after the 1986 oil price crash for pounds 2m. It was sold recently for pounds 45m.' But, he says, 'We've made two right decisions for every mistake.'

He will not rule out a flotation, but it will not be for five or 10 years. By then Wood Group could have a turnover of pounds 1bn. 'If a company doesn't double its size in four years, it's not growing at a good rate,' Sir Ian says.

In the 1980s Wood steered the business up-tech, buying companies with specialist expertise. When the oil price crashed in 1986, oil groups decided to contract out many of their activities to save costs, and Wood was well placed to gather in the business. It has, for example, signed a pounds 150m deal with BP to provide a range of services. It also has a number of joint ventures, notably with Rolls-Royce, Weir Group and Foster Wheeler.

Now the oil price is soft again, and activity in the North Sea is slackening. Sir Ian is worried about the effect on Aberdeen, but has been making sure his own group at least is not hit too hard. It has been moving abroad, buying companies in the US and bidding for contracts in other oil regions. It has diversified away from oil, signing a deal with National Power to service gas turbines, for example; and it has continued to invest in JW Holdings, the original fish business.

'Fishing sustained the North Sea 200 years ago,' he says. 'We believe it will in 200 years' time.' If his three sons (the eldest is 20) want to join the business, they will be steered into JW.

He is aware that the group has reached a size where it too could become enmeshed in bureaucracy. 'It's getting harder and harder to avoid,' he says, but believes he has created a management structure that can sustain fleetness of foot. 'One young lad said he felt that in Wood Group he was expected to work an hour more a day than in other companies. When that culture goes, we will start to wither.'

He is delighted he did not become an academic. 'I would have been disastrous,' he says. 'Universities are very political, working by a strange form of democracy. I like straightforward lines of control.' He got his PhD eventually anyway: in 1984, Aberdeen gave him an honorary doctorate in law.

He is also glad he cut through his own prejudices about the sleepy hollow of industry. 'I keep saying to young people today, 'Strip away the negative comment in the media, management is a very satisfying way of making things happen.' '

Despite his protestations, and his immense wealth, it is difficult not to think of Ian Wood as a man after Knox's heart. He is almost, but not quite, apologetic when he confirms that he travels economy class. 'That's not a big deal,' he says. 'I'd rather spend the money on a decent hotel.'

Furthermore, his list of extra- curricular activity smacks of stern duty, not of lucre. Only one directorship, of the Royal Bank of Scotland, nestles among a string of unpaid activities. He spends a fifth of his week - perhaps 16 hours - on them. Among other things, he is a member of the Scottish Economic Council and the National Training Task Force, and is chairman of Grampian Enterprise.

This last is particularly important, for Sir Ian is proud of the Granite City. Once it had realised the opportunities of oil, he says, it did the right things. 'It would be wrong to say it would all have happened anyway. The business could have gone to Dundee or elsewhere. The harbour has been rebuilt, and the local civic leaders did what they could to encourage development. That is very much to their credit.'

Now he feels his job is to make sure Aberdeen does not drift back into economic obscurity. 'We're the lucky generation of north-east Scotland,' he says. 'I'd hate the next generation to look back and say, 'Well, what did you leave us?' '


‘Speculation is irritating’ says Sir Ian Wood

MARK WILLIAMSON March 05 2008 -

EXPANSION PLANS: Chief executive Allister Langlands said Wood Group was keen to grow in Asia and the Middle East.

Sir Ian Wood, chairman of Wood Group, said he was irritated by bid speculation surrounding the oil services firm, insisting it had received no approaches in the last two years and had a bright future as an independent.

"We have had no bid approaches despite quite a lot of speculation to the contrary that's quite irritating," Sir Ian told The Herald.

Speaking after Wood Group unveiled strong growth in annual profits, he shrugged off suggestions that the firm might need to seek a merger or takeover to ensure it could compete in an age when scale is becoming increasingly important.

The boom in demand for oil and gas means services firms command good valuations. Last November Amec was reported to have been considering a bid for Wood Group that might have allowed members of the Wood family to sell off some of their combined 25% stake before proposed changes in capital gains tax take effect on April 6.

However, a spokesman for Wood Group said Sir Ian had no plans to sell down his holding ahead of the proposed changes.

Asked whether the Aberdeen-headquartered firm has had any informal discussions with firms that may have been interested in bidding, Sir Ian said: "Let me tell you where we stand. The board will always have the interests of shareholders in mind. Right now they are being pretty well served with compound growth of 40% in the last two years that reflects our growth strategy, and we are looking at exciting prospects ahead."

With Wood Group established in leading positions in markets which are set for strong growth, Sir Ian poured cold water on talk the firm's prospects might be hit by the wave of consolidation which some sector watchers believe is imminent.

"Tell me who is consolidating? The big players are not consolidating, they are surging ahead with their own growth plans, as are we," he said.

Sir Ian said Wood had not bid for rival Expro, which on Friday announced it had received an approach.

He said that while Wood had the capacity to complete a $1bn (£505m) plus takeover it had no deals in the pipeline.

Wood Group will continue to make bolt-on acquisitions, which it has used to enter new markets and territories. Sir Ian put the C$131m (£68m) acquisition of the Canadian oil sands specialist IMV, in November, in this category.

He said Wood Group was looking at another deal on that scale, without giving details.

Allister Langlands, who replaced Sir Ian as chief executive on January 1, 2007, highlighted Wood's desire to increase its exposure to the oil sands market. He said the company was keen to grow in markets including Asia and the Middle East.

Directors expect energy markets will remain in good shape. Sir Ian said that unless there was a deep US recession which impacted on other parts of the world, oil prices would likely remain strong.

Results for 2007 show that Wood did well across all its divisions. The company, which provides services ranging from managing oil rigs to maintaining industrial gas turbines, grew earnings before interest, tax and amortisation by 48%, to £160m. Sales increased 28%, to £2.2bn.

Sir Ian said that while capital expenditure on new developments fell in 2007, Wood had been helped by the fact that operational spending had been maintained.

He said he had been encouraged by signs that ministers had become more aware of the need to ensure recovery rates were maximised.

Keith Morris, analyst at Evolution Securities, said there was scope for a break-up of, or a bid for Wood Group to realise more value from the company.

Shares in Wood Group closed down 9.75p at 398.25p.



Sir Ian's pay up 27% as Wood profits soar


SIR Ian Wood - who shares with his family a fortune of £634 million - received a healthy bonus for his day job last year as his pay rocketed 27 per cent.
The oil and gas veteran enjoyed a fruitful year as chief executive of Aberdeen-based Wood Group, which posted annual pre-tax profits up 88 per cent to £71.2m. His pay expanded accordingly, coming in at £405,000, compared with £298,000 in 2004.

The total included a bonus worth 46 per cent of base salary, while Wood also saw the transfer value of his pension increase by 14 per cent to £2.8m. The 64-year-old is expected to hand over his chief executive's title by the end of the year, although he is postponing retirement to be executive chairman.

After a disappointing 2004, the high oil price and subsequently higher spending from the major oil firms saw a turnaround for Wood Group last year. Its shares began 2005 at 134p, but by Christmas they were up at 210p and closed last night at 285p.

Wood's successor-in-waiting, Allister Langlands, enjoyed a pay rise last year of 23 per cent to £290,000. He had been due for promotion in 2004, but was sent to the US to sort out the group's troubled turbine business.


Sir Ian Wood and family sell part of their Wood Group shareholding

John Wood Group PLC ("Wood Group") announces that Sir Ian Wood, his family Trusts and certain members of his family have sold 50 million existing Ordinary shares of the Company, representing approximately 9.6% of the Issued Share Capital of the Company. Following the placing, the Wood family hold approximately 24% of the Company's Issued Share Capital.

The move follows advice from financial advisers to the family Trusts that they should diversify their investments. The selling shareholders have no current intention to make further share sales.

Commenting on the placing, Sir Ian Wood said, "I, my family Trusts and some family members have chosen to sell a number of shares in order to diversify our financial assets. For my immediately family, this is our first sale since the IPO in June 2002. The timing is based solely on independent advice on diversification.

I personally remain totally committed to Wood Group both as fulltime Chairman and as a major investor. A large part of my family's wealth continues to be invested in Wood Group and I have every confidence in the Company's prospects in the future.

Part of the placing proceeds will be used to set up the Sir Ian Wood Family Charitable Foundation which will be the vehicle for myself and my immediate family to provide support to a range of charitable projects and causes both in the UK and overseas."

Allister Langlands, Wood Group Chief Executive said, "The placing has been carried out at a time of strong interest in the sector and will help increase the free float in Wood Group shares. We are pleased the placing has gone successfully."


Sir Ian Wood’s offer to raise Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens - Published: 11/11/2008

OIL TYCOON Sir Ian Wood today pledged £50 million of his own money to give Aberdeen a new heart.

The businessman wants to raise Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens to street level and create a civic square.

Sir Ian Wood today said the scheme would only go ahead if they could physically do it, if it was backed by the people of the North-east and received “significant” public funding.

He said: “The goal is to give Aberdeen a vibrant new heart to reflect both the success of the region and its position as a leading Northern European city.

“I personally believe it has the potential to transform our city and could be one of the major developments of the 21st century.”

The Wood Group chairman’s vision was unveiled at The Foyer in Aberdeen attended by the country’s leader Alex Salmond.

It would see the gardens covered over as well as the adjacent railway line and Denburn dual carriageway, linking Union Street, Union Terrace, Rosemount Viaduct and Belmont Street.

Sir Ian said: “The new heart should be an open leisure and recreational area with significant green landscaping, possible water features and certainly year-round cultural activities, including leisure and arts facilities and some all-weather facilities.

“Like many of the outstanding city centre squares in Europe, it could aim to host major events such as concerts, street theatre, ice-skating and seasonal displays and exhibits.”

First Minister Mr Salmond said: “It strikes me that in these tough economic times there is all the more reason to think big for the future of the North-east of Scotland.

“We should be excited by the scale of his vision and his commitment to ensure great things can be made to happen.”

A study funded by Scottish Enterprise – expected to be completed in March next year – will look at the feasibility, design and cost.

It will also consider raising only the area of the Gardens, and at improving the existing site, but neither of these plans would receive backing from Sir Ian.

Sir Ian said he was looking for “significant” funding from the public sector. He said: “With regard to the public sector funding, this will be a five-year project and when the costs are known, provided they are within a reasonable budget, discussions will take place with a range of public sector sources, as well as possible private sector participants.”

Mr Salmond said the Scottish Government was not in a position to discuss funding until the results of the feasibility study was completed and costings were known.

However, he added: “Such a project would have an extremely strong case of going forward to seek public funding, not just from the city council but from the Scottish Government and from the identifiable Lottery fundings which are available for such major projects.”

The square would link with the planned pedestrianisation of Union Street.

Sir Ian said: “The square will effectively integrate the Union Street retail and business thoroughfare with the cultural heart of His Majesty’s Theatre and the Art Gallery and this is a critical element of the proposal.

“Significant space will be created both within and below the new square for a range of social, leisure, cultural and commercial activities all year round. There is also the opportunity to explore the potential for direct rail and bus transport links from the lower levels into the square.”

He added: “I am only prepared to provide up to £50 million if it has strong support from the people of Aberdeen and the North-east of Scotland.

“I see this as the ‘people’s’ square with something for everyone, and how that square will be developed, both above and below ground, is open to public debate – but I personally don’t see significant building above-ground or significant car parking underground.”

Sir Ian warned that if the costs were above £100 million it would be “very difficult” to make it happen.

But he added that there had been a “positive” response to the concept from colleagues in the energy industry.

The Gardens are currently earmarked as the base for the £13 million Peacock Visual Arts Contemporary Arts Centre, which would be offered a home in the new square.

But a Peacock spokesman said Sir Ian’s announcement put its plans in jeopardy.

“A delay in proceeding will likely mean that we will lose our design team, architect and campaign team,” he said. “There would be immediate redundancies at Peacock.”

Any revamp would be led by the Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future.

Chairman Tom Smith said: “Today, we have an example of the private sector putting its money where its mouth is.”

Aberdeen City Council leader Kate Dean said: “For the first time we now have the prospect of significant private sector financing, which has never been on the table before.”




Sir Ian Wood encourages students to develop business ideas

Aberdeen’s students will have the chance to put their business ideas to the experts tomorrow (Tuesday, November 4) as part of national competition.

The Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) New Ideas contest will give students studying in Scotland the chance to win cash prizes of up to £2,000.

The idea could be for a new business, a new product, a way of making the world a better place or even a new invention.

The event, which is a joint venture between The University of Aberdeen and The Robert Gordon University, will take place at the Copthorne Hotel from 7pm.

Speakers Sir Ian Wood (Wood Group), Dr Graeme Paton (Co-Founder of Dram) and Alex Barton (a previous winner of the competition) will recount their experiences of entrepreneurship with a view to inspiring students to develop their embryonic business ideas into viable business options.

All students or recent graduates (in the past two years) from Scottish Higher Education Institutions are eligible to enter the competition, although this regional launch is open only to the students of the two Universities.

Four finalists from this regional leg of the competition will be chosen to compete in the national final. The finalists will have the opportunity to continue their work with the SIE Regional Business Adviser, and develop their idea further.

Kim Petrie from RGU, who supports the SIE interns, commented: "The competition launch event is a great opportunity for like-minded individuals to come together and discuss enterprise over free wine and refreshments.

"As well as providing students with information about the range of support available to them at each of the Universities, those who attend will benefit from hearing the experiences of inspirational individuals, while learning about the rewards that can be obtained from running a successful business."

Janice Montgomery, from the Careers Service at the University of Aberdeen, said: "This is a rare opportunity for students who are enthusiastic about enterprise to hear from speakers of such calibre who have all been successful in different areas of business. At one point these successful entrepreneurs were in the position that these students are in – perhaps with a few good ideas but no real idea how to take them forward."

Mr Simon Fraser, Regional Business Adviser to Students, SIE added: "I would encourage any students who have even the most basic idea for a business to attend. It would be hard not to be inspired by the stories of men such as Sir Ian Wood and we hope that many who attend will feel able to enter the Business Ideas Competition.

"We would love to see students from Aberdeen University and the Robert Gordon University scoop the prizes for this competition on a national level."

The evening has been organised by Scottish Institute for Enterprise interns at each university and is supported by the Research and Innovation departments of each institution.



Sir Ian Wood Award for Innovation

This award is open to businesses which have successfully developed innovative products, technologies or services, or which have developed innovative ways of doing business with customers.

Applicants will show a high degree of creativity and dynamism and will be exploring ways to exploit their innovation to its fullest potential.

Successful organisations will have developed a product/service, or business process, that is unique or ground-breaking in their sector, which satisfies a real need in the marketplace, and will have had or have the potential to have a positive impact on the Grampian economy.

This can also include innovative ways of doing business through partnership working or Joint Ventures, or encouraging staff to contribute ideas and suggestions for continuous improvement or applying different business models to growing the business.

A winning organisation will demonstrate commitment to the research and development process, and provide evidence of effectively marketing the innovation to customers. The innovation should be demonstrated to have had – or the potential to have – significant impact on the business.


Sir Ian Wood's city centre plan

12/11/08 21:59 Filed in: Granite Chips -

Sir Ian Wood has pledged £50 million to re-kindle interest in the plan to create a new civic square at street level in Union Terrace Gardens.

The idea is not new. The proposal to raise Union Terrace Gardens to the level of the surrounding streets was first proposed in the 1980s. The intention was to put a massive car park under cover, with open public spaces at street level above. The plans resurfaced in time to go forward as a potential millennium project, but once again without success.

The one outcome of these two proposals was that the foundations for the proposed car park were incorporated in the Denburn dual carriageway project.

Sir Ian’s vision is to develop a new square on the five-acre site. He envisages it would serve as a “hub and focal point” for Aberdeen City Centre, also improving the connectivity in the area. His offer of funding is based on the full project to raise the gardens to street level, covering over the railway and the Denburn dual carriageway.

Over the years there are many potential benefits put forward for the proposal:

* Create a public open space right in the heart of Aberdeen.
* Encourage people to make better use of the area, compared to the current less-accessible gardens.
* Provide performance areas and civic square at street level in the city centre.
* Link Union Street, Union Terrace, Schoolhill and Belmont Street with pedestrian walk ways.
* Provide a large underground car park encouraging shoppers and visitors into the city centre.
* Link the station and Union Square, under Union Bridge, to escalators and elevators up to Union Street.
* Offer parking for tour buses in the city centre, bringing visitors into the centre.

Of course any major project will be controversial.

* Some believe that the plan would obscure the Denburn Valley, which played such an important part in the development of the modern city.
* Others are concerned that it would change the character of the park.

But there has also been much publicity about how the plan could scupper the ambitious Peacock Visual Arts project for a new arts centre proposed for the existing gardens.

While it would be a shame for that project to founder completely as a result of Sir Ian Wood’s ambitious plans, this is too big a project to abandon without examining how the two developments could not only co-exist but complement each other.

But, for Peacock, time is of the evidence. Making a quick decision though is likely to be difficult, especially given the huge financial problems facing Aberdeen City Council.

Aberdeen needs bold new initiatives like this to take confidently into the 21st Century. It would be a shame if Sir Ian’s generous offer were not be used to make it third time luck for the Union Terrace project.

Could you forward this site to Sir Ian Wood