- Your early working life was at the Jersey Evening Post. How did that develop?
In 1961 I joined the Evening Post, which was then owned by my mother and her siblings, as a trainee. Starting as a junior in the Press Room, I served a full 5-year print apprenticeship.
After a further 2 years, I was appointed as the paper’s first-ever advertising representative, a job which I quickly came to love. After just over a year as a rep, the then Advertising Manager resigned, and I was in pole position to be appointed in his place.
- You briefly left W.E.Guiton in 1969, to set up your own advertising agency, Walkers’ Advertising Associates. Why this change in direction?
After two years of working with an exceptional team, I had a row with my uncle, who was Managing Director, and I resigned and, with another brilliant team, formed Walker’s Advertising Associates or WAA, as it was known. Here too, we were hugely successful and ended up with the majority of major advertising accounts in both Jersey and Guernsey. That apart, it was end-to-end fun!
- You returned at the age of 29 to take-over the company as you were adamant it should not be sold out of Jersey. Could you tell us about your time at the Guiton Group, what you learned at such a young age and how you led the company to being listed on the London Stock Exchange, with the most sought-after stocks at that time.
In 1973 my mother informed me that the Board had decided to put the newspaper up for sale. I couldn’t understand the logic of this and decided to try to buy it. To do so, I needed to raise £2.4m which was, in those days, a huge sum of money. So, at the age of 29, and with no serious assets, I faced the tough task of trying to persuade banks to loan me the funds. After a number of setbacks, the then-Midland Bank agreed to grant the loan, and I took over as Managing Director of the Company.
It quickly became apparent that, although the business was profitable, it was not well placed for the future, with outdated print and typesetting equipment, housed in a totally unsuitable property.
We solved this by buying the old JFU building at Five Oaks and installing the latest technology. We became very profitable and diversified into the Guiton Group with interests in commercial print, retail newsagents, travel and IT, which we floated on the London Stock Exchange.
I stepped down as Managing Director in 1990 and was appointed Non-Executive Chairman. In 2004, after a number of very successful years, we couldn’t see where future growth was going to come from and sold the business, with which, until 2021, I had no further contact.
My motivation to become Chief Minister was very simple; I had the time, the enthusiasm, and I wanted to give something back to the Island that had been so good to me, and for which I cared deeply (I still do).
- You entered politics and became a Deputy in 1990, what was the impetus that led you into pursuing politics?
Politically, I was elected as a Deputy for St. Helier No. 3/4 District and having been re-elected three times, gradually made my way up the ranks to be proudly elected as Jersey’s first ever Chief Minister in 2005. My motivation was very simple; I had the time, and the enthusiasm, and I wanted to give something back to the Island that had been so good to me, and for which I cared deeply (I still do).
- You were elected Jersey’s first Chief Minister in 2005 and retired 3 years later leaving the island with substantial reserves. In your term you introduced GST, saw pensions rise, and experienced the historical child abuse inquiry. What was your most challenging time as Chief Minister?
In politics, there are always high highs and deep lows. However, in the main, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and when I retired in 2008 I was extremely proud to be able to leave the Island in a very healthy state.
- How do you think politics have changed since your time in office?
Of late, politics has become much too personal with Ministers and others spending much of their time attacking each other rather than focussing on strategy and delivery. A risk-averse culture and over-regulation have prevented essential decisions from being taken and stymied delivery. I hope that the new Ministerial team will be capable of delivering a fresh approach; it is essential that they get things moving forward again. We need to replicate the ‘can do’ culture of earlier decades.
- In your opinion, do you think Guernsey and Jersey should work closer together and if so, in what respect particularly?
I firmly believe that Jersey and Guernsey should work more closely together, but having seen nearly all efforts to achieve this over the last few decades fall flat, I am far from optimistic.
- You are of the belief that the development of a Digital economy and a Digital society is essential to the Islands' future and were part of a group who were instrumental in the formation of Digital Jersey where you have been Chairman since 2017. Could you expand on your belief?
Jersey currently faces significant threats but also has exciting opportunities. I have no doubt that the future of all our economic sectors will depend heavily on our ability to invest in and creatively use new technology, in particular, AI. That is the only way we are going to improve on our dismal productivity record and ensure a successful future. If we move quickly, and take the brave and sometimes difficult but essential decisions, we can be hugely successful for decades to come. If we fail to position ourselves prominently in the digital marketplace, we will lose business to other faster-moving jurisdictions and risk slipping into decline.
I have no doubt that the future of all our economic sectors will depend heavily on our ability to invest in and creatively use new technology, in particular AI.If we move quickly, take the brave and sometimes difficult but essential decisions, we can be hugely successful for decades to come. If we fail to position ourselves prominently in the digital marketplace, we will lose business to other faster moving jurisdictions and risk slipping into decline.
- You were appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours List. Could you tell us about the moment you received this wonderful news and the day you accepted this honour at Buckingham Palace.
It's impossible to describe how I felt when I opened the letter informing me that I had been awarded an OBE. The day at the Palace when I received the award will always be one of the proudest days of my life, an emotion shared by my wife and family. What an honour, what a privilege!
- You are Chairman of All Island News, the company formed to run Bailiwick Express and the Jersey Evening Post since their merger, I understand that the company created a new “Employee Benefit Trust’ to give staff a stake in the business. Could you tell us more about this initiative?
I was delighted and surprised when I was invited to go back to the JEP under its new guise as a part of the All Island News Group. We believe in the democratisation of news and, as a first step, wanted staff to own a stake in the business. We firmly believe that this is the way forward for our company and are delighted to be able to offer such an incentive to our hard-working team.
- You were also Chair of the Sanctuary Trust, has this changed you in any way?
I am no longer Chair of Sanctuary Trust, although I remain a Trustee. It has most certainly changed me in a number of ways. The realisation of the scale of the homelessness problem in Jersey came as a shock and galvanised me into being determined to do whatever I could to address it. Meeting homeless men and hearing their stories has given me compassion, insight and understanding. Hearing highly emotional residents telling us that Sanctuary Trust has literally saved their lives is the highest accolade imaginable. That will live with me forever.
- Congratulations on your recent 80th Birthday and all your achievements, is there anything that you would dearly love to accomplish?
I am the luckiest person you will ever meet, and I have been incredibly fortunate to have been able to do so many things in business, politics, and in my personal life. At 80, apart from a continuing lust for travel with Fiona, my remaining ambitions all focus on helping our family, in any way I can, to become successful, happy, and fulfilled.