Jensen Motors | Managing A Struggling Company
Once the Jensen brothers has asked for help from Norcros Bank, they no longer resided ‘all powerful’ over the Company they formed. Norcros put a Managing Director in place at Jensen Motors, and this would change the Company’s destiny. The Museum looks at the various Managing Directors that tried to manage Jensen Motors.
Jensen Motors | Managing A Struggling Company
When the Jensen brothers asked for the financial help of Norcros Bank, it would change the dynamics of the Company. No longer could Alan and Richard Jensen reside – all powerful – over the Company they set up.
Suddenly, the bank had a major say in how the Company continued to run. One of the bank’s first changes, was to place their own Managing Director to run Jensen Motors – as they saw fit.
The turbulent, yet exciting years of Jensen Motors, from 1963 through to 1976, had seen no less than five official Managing Directors, and one un-official. Each had his own individual way of running the Company. Today, it is the charismatic Carl Duerr, whose name is inextricably linked to Jensen Motors.
Once Norcros had financial involvement with Jensen Motors, they immediately put in their own chosen Managing Director. This started with Michael Day in 1963, and Brian Owen just a year later. After the militaristic (ex-Colonel) Brian Owen was removed, Norcros placed Carl Duerr, the famous ‘turnaround man’ as MD.
In fact, of all the MDs who ran Jensen Motors, it is Carl Duerr who polarises opinion. No one is on the fence with Duerr, they either loved him, or hated him. And most of the factory floor loved him.
Undoubtedly, the factory floor’s general appreciation of their boss, Carl Duerr, was due in part to him having the ability to remember the names of many of the employees.
This was brought about by Duerr making his early morning tour around the factory, talking to employees, asking what problems they had with various jobs, and if there was anything he could do to make their life easier.
All previous and post-Duerr MDs had the reputation – from the factory floor perspective – of locking themselves away in their ‘ivory tower’. And the reality is, that is exactly what they did.
Yet, even Duerr, the ‘turnaround man’ only lasted from 1968 through to 1970, after which it was the turn of Alfred Vickers (who was eventually fired by Qvale), and then Kevin Beattie, to try and put the Company to right.
With Beattie repeatedly off sick, Qvale demoted him, giving him the title, Director of Engineering. Qvale himself, tried to run the Company from the USA, but that was somewhat complicated. The day to day work of Managing Director was left with Richard Graves, although he was never officially given that title.
During the last months of 1974, and the beginning of 1975, Graves was persevering in his unofficial role of Managing Director. However, Qvale had decided he wanted to move the whole Jensen operation Stateside, along with all intellectual properties. This led to a furious argument between Qvale and Graves, with Graves absolutely against such a move. The outcome of this argument was Qvale sacking Graves in May 1975.
Not long after Graves had cleared his desk and left, a Receiver & Manager, John Griffiths, was appointed to oversee Jensen Motors. In May 1976, the Company ceased trading.
Michael Day – Managing Director 1963 – 1964
Day had been a Technical Director of Silver City Airways (apart of British Aviation Services).
Norcros brought Day to Jensen Motors Ltd, appointing him as Managing Director in 1963.
In a positive move for the Company, it was Day that brought Tony Good (Good Relations) on board, as the public relations company for Jensen Motors.
Both Michael Day and Tony Good had known each other back in the Silver Wing Airways days.
With no previous experience of the motor industry, Day was not considered a particularly good choice. Within a year he was replaced by Brian Owen.
Tony Good remembers the situation well, “when I heard Michael had ‘resigned’ from Jensen Motors, I thought that would be an end to the business relationship between Jensen Motors and Good Relations. Next thing, I received a telephone call from Richard Jensen, asking me if I would come over to his house for a chat.
I thought, that’s that then, I’m going to be told my services are no longer required. To my astonishment, nothing could be further from the truth. Richard asked if Good Relations would continue to act on behalf of Jensen Motors. The rest is history as they say.”
Brian Owen – Managing Director 1964 – 1968
Brian Corser Owen, a former Colonel in the army, had been with Westinghouse, which handled the Douglas scooter. Norcros brought Owen to Jensen Motors as a replacement for Michael Day.
Although Owen, like Day, had no experience with the motor industry, he was generally liked by members of the Jensen Motors management; however there were inevitable arguments between Owen and the Jensen brothers over how the company was run.
One particular occasion was when Owen had agreed with Beattie that a replacement to the CV8 should be styled in Italy. Despite these arguments, Owen remained as Managing Director of Jensen Motors from 1964 through until January 1968. Outside of management, Owen was generally unpopular with the workers at the factory.
As with all MDs at Jensen Motors (apart from Duerr), Owen rarely walked around the factory floor. Even some members of management had concerns about his abilities as MD. Mike Jones, former Chief Engineer at Jensen Motors, stated,
“Colonel Brian Owen was a hopeless MD, who tried to run the Company as a military organisation, so he upset nearly everyone.”
Tony Marshall, former Sales Manager at Jensen Motors, also had little positive to say about Owen,
“when I had my job interview as Assistant Sales Manager in 1967, Richard Graves interviewed me alone. When I arrived for work at Jensen Motors, it was something like a week before I saw Owen. It was a formal handshake, hello – goodbye, as he disappeared back into his office. I really do not remember much of him. What a difference when Duerr took over.”
Former Finisher, Clive Kendrick, concurred with the other employees,
“On the shop floor we rarely saw Brian Owen. Occasionally he would need to come onto the shop floor, if he was showing someone around or something. He was a tall formidable looking chap, with piercing eyes. No one wanted to catch eye to eye contact, so if we saw him coming, we kept our heads down.”
Owen resigned, or one should say, was asked to stand down by John Boex, since the Norcros Group were re-evaluating keeping Jensen Motors Ltd on as one of its investments. The enigmatic Carl Duerr replaced Owen in 1968.
Owen was born in 1911 and died in 1994.
Carl Duerr – Managing Director 1968 – 1970
Duerr was born in Chicago during 1916. Directly after the Second World War, Duerr with the rank of Colonel, was a member of a team based in Vienna, implementing the Marshall Plan.
Post-war, Duerr moved into the world of cinema as an actor, Duerr later moved into business as a freelance ‘trouble-shooter’ or ‘turn-around’ man.
Duerr was brought to Jensen Motors by the Norcros Group in January 1968 as a Consultant Managing Director (in other words a ‘turn-a-round’ man).
His brief was to determine if Jensen Motors Ltd should remain a part of the new Norcros structure, and if it did, what was to be done with it.
There is no doubt that Duerr was a dynamic, and charismatic character. There was no half measures with Duerr, and typically of such a character, he was either loved or hated.
Interestingly, it was mostly his own management team where the split was divided almost half and half. By contrast, the majority of the factory floor staff both respected Duerr, and liked him.
Mike Jones, former Chief Engineer at Jensen Motors stated,
“When I was at Rootes between my Jensen stints, I heard horror stories about Carl Duerr. I was told he frequently irritated his co-directors by ‘doing it my way’ and ignoring the normal lines of communication.
For instance, he was evidently famous for his daily walks around the factory, asking about problems and taking instant decisions without referring back to the foremen, supervisors, heads of department etc.”
Brian Clee was a senior mechanic / electrician at Jensen Motors, he remembers Duerr’s ‘walks around the factory’,
“early one morning I was putting in a new wiring loom to an Interceptor, which had a wiring loom fire behind the dashboard.
Next minute, Mr.Duerr jumped into the passenger seat next to me, asking what I was doing, how hard was it to do. He asked how I liked it at Jensen Motors, and if anything could be done to improve things.
I’d never met a boss like that before, and I felt it was a shame when he left. I don’t really remember the next boss [Alfred Vickers], he was always in his office.
In 2012, motoring journalist, Jon Pressnell , interviewed Richard Graves. During the interview, Graves stated, “I don’t generally take badly to people, but I could’nt stand him.” was Grave’s summing up of Duerr.
Strangely, Graves’ interview with Pressnell, was a startling revelation for former Sales Manager, Marshall. He understood that Duerr and Graves had differences of opinion in regard to running the Company – and that the situation was somewhat tense by 1970. But, Marshall had never heard Graves mention Duerr in a particularly negative way, during the time they were working together. Perhaps this was indicative of the English gentleman.
Graves was an ex-Sandhurst educated officer, born into a wealthy banking family. Obviously, Graves was going to have more in common with old school Colonel Brian Owen, so it must have been a shock to the system after Owen was pushed out, and Duerr put in charge.
The reality was, that the somewhat brash American, Duerr, and the English gentleman, Graves, were probably never going to get on.
However, not all management saw Duerr negatively. Former Sales Manager, Tony Marshall remembers Duerr with affection,
“I know some guys in management were frustrated by Duerr, but I saw him as ‘breath of fresh air’. What a lot of people were forgetting is that Jensen Motors needed someone charismatic like Duerr, at that time.”
As with many of those working at Jensen Motors, Duerr became emotionally involved with the product of the Company. In this instance, Jensen cars, a mistake for a ‘turn-a-round’ man. Duerr was pushed into resigning during 1970. Even after leaving Jensen Motors, Duerr maintained an Interceptor of his own, which he still retained up to his death in 1988.
Further reading: ‘Management Kinetics’ by Carl Duerr.
Alfred Vickers – Managing Director 1970 – 1973
Vickers was born in 1917 and after a distinguished academic career at Manchester University, joined Rolls Royce. His initial appointment was as a student engineer within the experimental department.
At the age of 23 he was given a promotion to Deputy Technical Production Manager at the Rolls Royce Glasgow factory.
Vickers was placed in charge of the development of the Rolls Royce Merlin aero engine.
Two years later, a new factory was built at Trafford Park and Vickers was promoted to Technical Production Manager.
After the Second World War, Vickers decided to start his own business. Acquiring a derelict building, he started manufacturing metal window frames.
Within four years the business had become one of the largest of its type within the country.
Rolls Royce persuaded Vickers back to them in 1951, his new position was to supervise the establishment of a completely autonomous company, which were to handle the manufacture of the Avon jet engine.
Later he was giving the position of Engineering Manager for the entire Rolls Royce Scottish Group. Vickers left Rolls Royce again, after Ministry contract work on the aero engine ended.
By the late 1960’s, Vickers was acting as a freelance consultant. This brought him into contact with William Brandt & Sons, who were looking closely at the future of Jensen Motors.
Jensen Motors Ltd were not financially sound even by 1969 when the Interceptor was at its most successful in the market place.
William Brandt brought Vickers in to investigate Jensen Motors Ltd and report back on the future of the company. After reporting back none too enthusiastically about the finances and organisation with Jensen Motors Ltd, Brandt asked him to stay on as a General Manager of the holding company.
Vickers and Duerr understandably did not get on. When Kjell Qvale became the primary shareholder of Jensen Motors Ltd in 1970, Duerr was asked to resign and Vickers was appointed Managing Director.
Once Vickers had evaluated what was going on at the factory, he felt [correctly] that the quality of the cars being produced was not good enough. As such, he dropped production down from 15 cars a week to 10 cars.
The quality of these cars immediately improved. This proved the point that Graves and his marketing team had been making to Duerr since his appointment.
Tony Marshall, former Sales Manager at Jensen Motors, noticed a difference once again, in how the Company was managed,
“in a sense, Vickers was like Owen, they remained in their office, rarely went on the shop floor, and didn’t get to know middle management. There was nothing particularly wrong with Vickers, and he certainly made some improvements, he just didn’t have much charisma.”
Mike Jones, former Chief Engineer at Jensen Motors had much the same opinion,
“He [Vickers] wasn’t the gregarious type, and I don’t think he ever entered the Engineering Department, the Drawing Office or the Experimental Shop, not at least when I was there.”
Clive Kendrick, Former Finisher, thought the same as Jones,
“we rarely saw Vickers on the shop floor. That said, he wasn’t as scary as Owen.”
Ron Freckleton, former Press Shop Manager at Jensen Motors also agreed with Jones,
“I rarely saw Vickers, unlike Duerr (who was regularly walking around the shop floor), Vickers ran the Company from his office, employees came to him, he didn’t go to them.
Freckleton remembered a conversation he had with Bob Edmiston (former Company Secretary), after he moved over to International Motors,
“Vickers had a heart attack in 1973, and due to him still convalescing, was only coming into work about three days a week. Bob [Edmiston] told me that Qvale had come over from America and took Vickers out to a boxing match. According to Bob, Qvale told Vickers at the boxing match that he was fired.”
Vickers ‘resigned’ from Jensen Motors in July 1973, later moving to Cosworth as a Director of the Company. Beattie took over as Managing Director.
Kevin Beattie – Managing Director 1973 – 1974
Born in South Africa during 1927, Douglas Kevin Randlesome Beattie was educated in England.
Beattie found employment with the Rootes Group, joining their design team. During 1959, Beattie heard about a vacancy with the firm of Jensen Motors Ltd, as a Deputy Chief Engineer.
He applied for the position and was given the appointment of Deputy Chief Engineer on 1st January 1960, working under Chief Engineer Eric Neale.
By 1965, Beattie was appointed to the Board and was committed to the idea of a CV8 replacement being styled in Italy, Brian Owen agreed.
Although the Jensen brothers and Neale were against the idea, John Boex agreed with Beattie and Owen. Shortly afterwards Beattie was obtaining design ideas from various Italian design houses.
Unhappy about his position within the company, Neale retired in late Spring 1966, Beattie took over his title of Chief Engineer with a salary of £2,950.
After Alfred Vickers resigned as Managing Director in July 1973, Beattie took on this appointment, and his Assistant Chief Engineer, Mike Jones, became Chief Engineer in his place. Mike Jones remembered Beattie’s time as Managing Director,
“As far as engineering was concerned, he [Beattie] basically left me to run it, and he only became involved in engineering matters for critical decisions, which is how it should be. So from my point of view he was the perfect boss.
Kevin was on a learning curve during the first few months in the MD job, but he was a quick learner, so I doubt if he made any really bad decisions. However, I don’t think he ever saw eye to eye with Qvale.”
Former Quality Engineer, Paul Turner, also remembered Beattie’s time as Managing Director,
“Qvale had brought everyone together in the body building section, he said that he had put a huge amount of money into the Company, and that we all needed to pull our weight, and get more cars off the line and out to sales.
I never saw anything of Vickers, but when Kevin Beattie took over as Managing Director, he would often come down to us. He was always asking why this car, or that car, was still with us, and that we needed to get them out to sales as soon as possible. I remember sometimes, I would say that car couldn’t go because there was something not right with, say the petrol filler lid.
Beattie would just say, never mind the petrol filler lid, get the car over to sales, if necessary it can come back under warranty. I always found Kevin Beattie to be a very fair man, but I think he was just being pushed by Qvale all the time.”
Beattie’s roll as Managing Director was to be short lived, as he was forced to relinquish his post by Qvale in late 1974. In part this was due to Beattie’s ongoing time off with illness.
Qvale gave Beattie the new title of Director of Engineering, and tried to fulfil the role of Managing Director himself, but the reality was that Qvale was relying on Richard Graves. Beattie died in the summer of 1975 aged 48.
Not long after Beattie’s death, the Receiver & Manager, John A.Griffiths was appointed on 15th September 1975. The Company carried on trading until May 1976, however, redundancies started at the beginning of 1976.
Richard Graves – Managing Director (unofficial ) 1974 – 1975
Graves joined Jensen Motors in March 1966 as Marketing Director, having previously worked for Rolls Royce from 1959. Before Rolls Royce, Graves had worked for Rootes.
It was at Rootes that Richard Graves and Kevin Beattie had worked together, and become friends. It should then, be no surprise that Kevin Beattie persuaded Graves to come and work at Jensen Motors, and help with the launch of the new Italian designed Jensen cars.
Brian Owen was Managing Director when Richard Graves moved to Jensen Motors.
Owen, with his military background, was respected by Graves, however, he really didn’t get on with Carl Duerr, after he took over as Managing Director in 1968.
As such, it was not unexpected, that Graves was not displeased, when Duerr was asked to resign in 1970, and Vickers took over.
Graves took over management of the Company after Kevin Beattie was demoted by Qvale in late 1974.
Qvale in essence, was trying to run the Company from the USA , with Richard Graves holding the fort in the UK. Graves was never officially given the title, Managing Director, however, the reality was, that had become his job.
Graves continued in the capacity of unofficial Managing Director from late 1974 until May 1975. Graves stated in his 2012 interview with motoring journalist, Jon Pressnell,
“Amid talk in the press of a three-day week and of folding Jensen into the soon-to-be-nationalised British Leyland, weekly output of Healeys slumped to 25 cars. Debts rose to £3.7m. When a proposed financial restructuring was judged by the board not to be in the best interest of Jensen, there was a serious argument between myself and Qvale, which led to myself resigning.”
Former Sales Manager, Tony Marshall, was an old friend of Graves. He had telephoned Marshall shortly after leaving Jensen Motors.
According to Marshall, Qvale wanted to move Jensen Motors, along with all its intellectual property over to America, and start making cars over there.
Graves was absolutely against such an action, and went head to head with Qvale. Marshall remembers his telephone conversion with Graves,
“Dick was obviously very upset when he called me. He discussed Qvale’s intentions, and told me why he [Graves] couldn’t agree to such an action. He had to telephone Qvale and state to him that the board, on his recommendation would not accept such an action. Apparently Qvale exploded, and fired Dick on the phone.”
Interestingly, Marshall also mentions to the Museum about the relationship between Richard Graves & Kevin Beattie,
“Back when both men [Graves & Beattie] were working at Rootes, Kevin Beattie was Graves’ superior. It was one of those strange things but Dick [Richard Graves] couldn’t brush off the fact that Beattie had been his boss at Rootes, and I noted it always left Dick being the underdog when the two men were discussing anything at Jensen.”
In the end, Qvale didn’t move everything to the USA, and believing Jensen Motors to be a lost cause, refused to put any further large scale capital behind it.
The Receiver & Manager, John Griffiths was brought in on the 15th September 1975, and ran the Company until it ceased trading in May 1976.
Jensen Motors | Managing A Struggling Company
NOTES: Interviews with former management /employees of Jensen Motors (including Clee, Freckleton, Good, Jones, Marshall, Turner) took place between 2013 and 2017.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Keith Anderson, Jensen historian | Brian Clee, former Senior Mechanic, Jensen Motors |Ron Freckleton, former Press Shop Manager, Jensen Motors | Tony Good, former Chairman Good Relations | Mike Jones, former Chief Engineer, Jensen Motors | Clive Kendrick, former Interceptor Line Finisher, Jensen Motors | Tony Marshall, former Sales Manager, Jensen Motors | Paul Turner, former Interceptor Quality Engineer, Jensen Motors.
COPYRIGHTS: Jensen Museum | Keith Anderson
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