Oration for Peter Tom

Written and delivered by Dr Paul Jenkins, January 2018

Peter Tom is Executive Chairman of the construction materials company, Breedon Group plc and Chairman of Leicester Rugby Football Club, which we know better as Leicester Tigers.

Peter was born in Cornwall and came to Leicester in 1956 as a school leaver to work in the Leicestershire company, Bardon Hill Quarries Ltd.

During the 1960s, Peter made 130 appearances for Leicester Tigers as a lock forward and also represented Leicestershire and the Midland Counties.  Playing for the Tigers in the ’60s was a very different experience to the game of rugby as it is played today.

In parallel with this sporting experience, Peter was moving through the ranks at the Bardon Group, becoming Managing Director in 1977 and Chief Executive in 1985.  He went on to lead the merger of Bardon and Evered plc in 1991 and the enlarged group’s subsequent merger with CAMAS in 1997 to form Aggregate Industries plc.

Following the acquisition of Aggregate Industries by Swiss building materials Group Holcim Limited for £1.8 billion, he served as non-executive Chairman of Aggregate Industries until his resignation in December 2007.

In 2008, Peter re-entered the industry as Chairman of the company Marwyn Materials, which he had created with his colleague Simon Vivian to consolidate the smaller end of the UK construction materials sector.

Their first deal was the reverse acquisition of Breedon Holdings Limited (the former UK operations of Ennstone plc).  Ennstone had been failing and was heavily in debt when it went into administration.  Shareholders and employees in the company had watched the share price crash from 45p to 0.3p.  Many had lost their savings when the company’s share-buying scheme was closed.  They were demotivated, productivity was poor, management systems were ineffective and distribution inefficient. The company was in danger of losing the game and they needed saving. Peter and Simon led a dramatic turnaround of the company in a very short period of time.

This was achieved through a wholesale overhaul of operations and culture.  The group’s revenues went on to grow, even during the worse days of economic recession.  By 2016 the company had pre-tax profits of £47 million on sales revenue of £455 million.  The Tigers’ experienced lock forward Peter Tom had clearly demonstrated he could not only coordinate the scrum into working together at Welford Road, but also knew how to apply these skills in his business ventures.

Breedon Group, as it is known today, is now the largest independent construction materials company in the UK.  It operates the country’s largest cement plant and two cement import terminals.  It has 60 quarries, 26 asphalt plants, around 200 ready mixed concrete and mortar facilities and three concrete block plants.  Breedon employs 2,300 people nationwide.

Peter Tom has served as chairman of Leicester Tigers since 1997.  The fully professional era of rugby in the UK also started around this time.  Its effect was to change an amateur sport into a serious professional business.  To accommodate this vast increase in interest in the game, a detailed long-term plan was needed to extend the capacity of the Welford Road ground.  The number of sell-out crowds continued to increase and in the 2003/2004 season the club boasted 11 capacity crowds of 13,500.  The question facing the board led by Peter Tom was that if they invested to double the capacity of the ground, would the number of spectators also double?  The decision was made to go ahead, and in the 2008-9 season work began on ground development.

Many of us still remember the remarkable day when two enormous Ainscough cranes arrived to lift the superstructure of the spectacular Caterpillar stand into place.  The completion of the stand took the ground capacity to 24,000.  At the grand opening, a sell-out crowd were overjoyed at the historic 22-17 victory of Tigers over world champions South Africa.  Average attendances were around 22,000 and so it proved that the risk taken by the board was justified.  Home support was so strong that Tigers were beaten just once at home in the 2009-10 season.  Most recently, redevelopment of the clubhouse area has taken the ground capacity to almost 26,000.  Leicester Tigers is now one of the best supported rugby clubs in the world.

All this infrastructure work needs strong leadership and Peter Tom has overseen all of it.  Of course, building development is only part of the responsibility of the Tigers board.  The Chairmanship of Peter Tom has seen many changes in coach, youth development and the influx of players from all over the world and great success on the pitch.

Peter lives in Guernsey with his wife Kay, and has 4 children: Saffron, Layla, Joseph & Georgia; and 4 grandchildren: Clover, Poppy, Archie & Ned.

In recognition of his outstanding work in sport and in business Peter Tom was awarded the CBE in 2006.

Mr Chancellor, on the recommendation of the Senate and Council, I present Peter Tom, that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws.

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