|Sir Brian Souter|
5 May 1954 |
|Occupation||Chairman, Stagecoach Group|
|Net worth||£400 million (2010)12|
|Brian Souter Official Website|
Sir Brian Souter (born 5 May 1954) is a Scottish businessman and philanthropist. With his sister, Ann Gloag, he founded the Stagecoach Group of bus and rail services in the United Kingdom and abroad. He also founded the bus and coach operator Megabus, the train operating company South West Trains, his investments company Souter Holdings Ltd., and his charity foundation the Souter Charitable Trust.
Souter has also been politically active in Scotland, and financially supports the Scottish National Party. In 2000, when the Scottish Government proposed to repeal Section 2A of the Local Government Act, which prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", Souter started the Keep the Clause campaign to oppose their plans, spending one million pounds of his own money to organise a private referendum across Scotland. This campaign, and other controversial statements, have led opponents to accuse him of homophobia.
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Political activity
- 3 Charitable work
- 4 Honours and awards
- 5 Personal life
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Souter was born in the Scottish town of Perth. During school he developed an interest in economics and accounts, about which he later said, "Changing my timetable from maths to include economics and accounts was one of the best things I’ve ever done."4
On leaving school, he studied to become a commerce teacher at the University of Abertay.5 On completion he studied at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, where he graduated with a CA Diploma in Accountancy and Economics. He self-financed his studies by working full-time as a bus conductor for Glasgow bus company, SMT Central.citation needed
Following his graduation Souter landed his first position as a Chartered Accountant at Arthur Andersen & Co, one of the top chartered accountancy firms at the time.citation needed During his time at Arthur Andersen, Souter continued moonlighting at the weekends as a bus conductor for SMT Central.citation needed
Using his father's redundancy money, and working with his sister Ann Gloag and his brother-in-law Robin Gloag, Souter established the Stagecoach Group in 1980, running buses from Dundee to London.6 Expansion continued and in the early 1990s, Stagecoach acquired National Bus Company operations in Cumberland, Hampshire, East Midlands, Ribble, Southdown and the United Counties. Stagecoach bought further bus operations in Scotland, Newcastle and London, with Manchester being added a few years later.7 In 1993, Stagecoach was valued at £134 million and was floated on the London Stock Exchange in order to access more capital for new opportunities for buses and trains for overseas expansion.
By the mid 1990s Stagecoach developed its interests in Australia and New Zealand. The company further expanded with the purchase of Citybus, a provider of buses and ferries in Hong Kong. During this time the company also bought Coach USA, which was the largest bus and coach operator in the USA and Canada.8 Souter, who had taken up the position of Chief Executive, later sold off much of Coach USA.citation needed
Following the deregulation of bus services in the United Kingdom, Stagecoach bought a number of the newly emerged small bus companies and ran free or low fare buses to put local rivals out of business.6 In Darlington, Stagecoach subsidiary Busways offered bounties to recruit drivers away from the existing bus service and offered free buses to deter the rival preferred bidder from taking over the existing bus service. This was "predatory, deplorable and against the public interest" according to findings from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.910
In 2009, Souter received a £1.6m bonus. Stating "it was felt that in the present economic climate it would not be right for any individual to pocket a bonus package of £1.6million", he accepted the bonus, donating £900,000 to his own charity, the Souter Charitable Trust, which assists humanitarian projects in the UK and overseas. Most of the remainder was given to the staff pension fund.1112
In August 2012, it was announced that Souter would become Chairman of Stagecoach Group on 1 May 2013. Stagecoach finance director Martin Griffiths replaced Souter as CEO.13
Shortly after Souter floated Stagecoach on the London Stock Exchange, he turned his attention to the British railways. Initial experiments consisted of a Scotland to London service branded Stagecoach Rail. The response to the new service was positive, so in 1995 Souter bid on a new rail franchise, South West Trains. Souter was successful in his bid, and today the company continue to operate South West Trains, with the addition of South Western and East Midlands Trains as well as a 49% in Virgin Rail Group,14 which operates the West Coast Main Line.
In 2003, Souter added the bus and coach operator, Megabus to the group.15 Megabus, with its slogan "Low Cost Inter City Travel Serving Europe", offered discounted travel across the UK and Europe. As of 2012, Megabus operates in 31 cities in the UK with a turnover in excess of £2 billion, making annual profits of over £250 million.16
In April 2013 Souter announced a new sleeper service for Megabus that would run overnight services from Scotland to London. The sleeper coaches cost £5 million to build, and feature 53 leather seats which can be converted into 42 bunk beds. Passengers also receive a onesie for sleeping in during the trip.17
Souter Holdings Ltd is Souter's New Zealand investment company, owning commuter ferry operator Fullers Ferries and the bus company Howick & Eastern, both operating in Auckland, and 74% of Wellington bus operator Mana Coach Services.18
In total, Souter has more than 200 private investments which are managed by his company, Souter Investments. They include stakes in the yacht company Sunseeker; insurance specialists esure and Gocompare.com; Alexander Dennis, Britain’s biggest bus and coach manufacturer and Argent, a producer of biodiesel. In October 2010, Souter Investments reported that the value of its portfolio had risen by 41% over the preceding three years to £400 million.19
In 2000, when the Scottish Government were planning to abolish Section 28 laws which forbade local authorities from "intentionally promoting homosexuality", Souter was the prominent leader of the Keep the Clause campaign which sought to prevent its abolition. In Scotland, where Section 28 was known as clause 2A, Souter spent £1 million on the first privately funded postal referendum to take place across Scotland to gauge public opinion. A spokesman for Souter stated "He is not in this for personal glory. He is fighting this battle because he is a father and committed Christian."20
A total of 3,970,712 ballot papers were posted out and 31.8% valid votes were returned (a "turn out" rate lower than any national election in Scottish history). The results showed that 86.8% of returned ballots were in favour of keeping Clause 28 and only 13.2% in favour of repeal.20
Souter pointed out that the number of people who voted to keep the clause exceeded the number of votes cast for any single political party in Scotland at any election over the preceding ten years,citation needed although Scottish voters usually choose from four main parties, not two options. The campaign was ultimately unsuccessful.
Souter's campaign group approached the Electoral Reform Society to organise the ballot through its ballot services subsidiary. The society refused the request as it believed the poll "would not be a legitimate democratic exercise to ask people to give an opinion on the repeal of Section 28 without knowing the detail of what would replace it".21 Many groups hostile to Souter's stance had called for a public boycott of the poll, and accordingly claimed that as only a minority returned ballot papers this was a defeat for Souter and his supporters. Mainstream politicians, including the Scottish National Party (which Souter has supported) largely ignored his private poll and disputed whether the result was a true reflection of public opinion, with the Scottish Executive stating that the public had been fed a diet of "misinformation and lies" by Souter's campaign group.20 The then Communities Minister, Wendy Alexander MSP, criticised the poll stating "I think what is significant about today's ballot is that two out of three voters rejected, or binned or simply ignored this glorified opinion poll."22 Gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, stated that "Brian Souter’s support for Section 28 is the moral equivalent of the business-funded campaign to maintain racial segregation in the Deep South of the USA in the 1950s." Tatchell stated that Souter's campaign was "hateful" and that it is clear that Souter was using his vast fortune to try to keep a cruel and "bigoted law" intact.23
Souter is a major financial supporter of the Scottish National Party (SNP). In March 2007, he donated £500,000 to the SNP, citing an imbalance of funding within Scottish politics.24 Souter stated that it was his intention to redress an imbalance in funding, saying that "as long as I can remember, the case for the union has been hugely financed by cash from London, while the case for independence has lacked resources. I hope my donation will help redress this imbalance".25 Following the donation, SNP leader Alex Salmond was criticised for "pandering to homophobia" by accepting Souter's donation25 - particularly as the party had just opposed the right for gay couples to be given equal treatment by Catholic adoption agencies, and had also snubbed a gay rights debate in January 2007.25 However, Salmond merely thanked Souter for his support, calling him "one of the outstanding entrepreneurs of his generation".25 One month later, in April 2007, the SNP's commitment (made at the party's 2006 conference) to re-regulate the bus network was dropped from the 2007 manifesto, although the SNP denied any direct link.26
In February 2011 Souter again pledged financial support for the SNP promising to match every pound they raised with a donation of up to £500,000. Announcing his support he said Alex Salmond and the SNP deserved a second term in office.2728 The SNP won a resounding victory in the election with Alex Salmond being returned unopposed as First Minister.29
In 1992, Souter and his wife set up the Souter Charitable Trust which assists humanitarian projects in the UK and overseas, especially, but not exclusively, those with a Christian emphasis.30 These projects include the prevention of malaria and supplying daily meals to school children in Africa. According to its official website, the Trust has awarded over 2,700 grants worth more than £20 million.31
In 1989, Souter received an award from the Scottish Business Achievement Award Trust.citation needed
In 1998 he was awarded the Scottish Entrepreneur Award.34
In 2004, he was honoured with the Businessman of the Year award at the Insider Elite Awards.36
In 2008 Souter was given a Special Recognition Award for services to the bus industry.37
In June 2010, Souter was given a Special Career Service Award at the "Talent In Mobility" Awards, part of the European Mobility Exhibition held in Paris for the public transport industry.38 In October 2010 he was awarded the Ernst & Young UK Master Entrepreneur of the Year.39
Also in 2011, Souter was presented with an outstanding achievement award at the 2011 Perthshire Chamber of Commerce Business Star Awards.40
On 18 April 2012, Souter was inducted into the British Travel and Hospitality Industry Hall of Fame. He is the first public transport entrepreneur to receive the honour.41
Souter was knighted in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to transport and the voluntary sector.4243 43 This decision proved to be controversial, and was criticised by Scottish Labour MP Cathy Jamieson who suggested a link between Souter's knighthood and the large amounts of money he has donated to the Scottish National Party. In a public statement, Jamieson said: "The First Minister and his party must look seriously at the relationship they have developed with wealthy individuals handing them large sums of cash. The public will rightly be asking what’s next on Mr Souter’s shopping list?"44 First Minister Alex Salmond denied any wrongdoing in the matter and referred himself for investigation after calls for a probe by Scottish MP Jim Sheridan. An independent report, conducted by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, cleared Salmond of any wrongdoing and asserted that "There appears to me to have been no breach of the ministerial code by Alex Salmond as First Minister and he should be wholly exonerated of any breach."45
Souter's knighthood was also criticised by gay rights campaigners, who felt that the honour was insulting towards the gay community and was effectively rewarding homophobia given Souter's past campaigning. A petition to have Souter's knighthood withdrawn received 5000 signatures as of July 2011.46
- "Brian Souter reveals investment wealth". Perthshire Advertiser. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Grierson, Jamie (2010-10-26). "Brian Souter’s fortune soars to Ł400m | The Sun |Home Scotland|Scottish News". The Sun. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Brian Souter knighted in Queen's birthday honours". BBC News. 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Childhood". Briansouter.com. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- "Abertay University, Dundee - A-Z Unis & Colleges - Getting Into University". The Independent. 2011-05-01. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Brian Souter: Stagecoach's straightman". BBC News. 2000-01-21. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Bus History | Magicbus | National Bus". Brian Souter. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Stagecoach pays pounds 1.21bn for largest US bus operator". The Independent. 1999-06-15. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- Glenda Cooper (1995-12-24). "Stagecoach set record of shame ful record of shame - Home News - UK". The Independent. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "The supply of bus services in the north-east of England". Competition Commission. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Stagecoach boss gives his £1.6m bonus to staff and charity". The Daily Record. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Faith in Community Scotland". Faith in Community Scotland. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Stagecoach CEO Brian Souter to become chairman next year". Reuters.com. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
- "Joint Ventures - Stagecoach Group". Stagecoach.com. 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- "Stagecoach entrepreneur Brian Souter still as driven as ever". The Courier. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- "Annual Report and Financial Statements 2012". Stagecoach Group. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- "Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter shows the way to Onesie Day". Daily Record. 2013-04-29. Retrieved 2013-11-07.
- Radio New Zealand Morning Report, 7 April 2009
- "Souter Investments". Web-markets.net. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- "SCOTLAND | Poll supports S28 retention". BBC News. 2000-05-30. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "SCOTLAND | Souter poll hits major setback". BBC News. 2000-03-31. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Keep the Clause: the legacy - News - Scotsman.com". Scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com. 2005-03-06. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Think Again, Brian Souter". Peter Tatchell. 2000-01-16. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "UK | Scotland | Stagecoach tycoon donates to SNP". BBC News. 2007-03-17. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Paul Hutcheon (2007-03-17). "Souter jumps back on SNP bandwagon with £1/2 m donation". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "SNP under attack after bus U-turn - Edinburgh, East & Fife - Scotsman.com". Business.scotsman.com. 2007-04-23. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "£500,000 war chest for Alex Salmond - News". Scotsman.com. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Brian Souter Announces His Donation To The SNP". Briansouter.com. 2011-02-13. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Black, Andrew (2011-05-18). "BBC News - SNP leader Alex Salmond re-elected as first minister". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Souter Charitable Trust: Grant Guidelines". Souter Charitable Trust. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- "Brian Souter | Souter Charitable Trust | About". Souter Charitable Trust. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Souter Charitable Trust: Projects". Souter Charitable Trust. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- "Biographies — The Entrepreneurial Exchange". Entrepreneurial-exchange.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- "Glasgow Business Club". Glasgow Business Club. 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- "CRIEFF News Archive". Crieff.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- Custom byline text: Ben Griffiths (2004-10-08). "Baxter and Souter lauded for successful recipes". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- "Bus Companies Celebrates Award Success". TravelNorthEast.co.uk. 19 November 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-07.
- "Transports Publics 2012 - ‘Talent in mobility’ awards". Transportspublics-expo.com. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Tim Sharp, City Editor (2010-06-24). "Stagecoach boss warns against cutting OAP free travel". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Star Awards 2011". Perthshire Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- "Sir Brian Souter enters British Travel Industry Hall of Fame". stagecoach.com. 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
- The London Gazette: . 11 June 2011.
- "Queen's birthday honours list: Knights | UK news". The Guardian. 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- HELEN McARDLE (2011-08-07). "Row grows over honour for Sir Brian". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Alex Salmond cleared of any wrong-doing in knighthood nomination for Stagecoach tycoon Brian Souter". The Daily Record. 2011-11-28. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Dalberto, Lorenzo (2011-07-05). "Gay students oppose Brian Souter’s Knighthood". deadlinenews.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-11-12.
- From the archive (1998-01-05). "A wrong turning Stagecoach boss's comments are unwise". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Suffering from foot-in-mouth | Business | The Observer". Observer.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Margaret Stead. "Weblogs as a Career Tool - Career Coach Newsletter October 2003 from". Careersnet.com. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Sunday Times Rich List 2013". uk.msn.com. Retrieved 2013-04-26.
- Quotations related to Brian Souter at Wikiquote
- Brian Souter - Official Website
- Souter Investments
- Souter Charitable Trust
- Stagecoach Bus
- Talent in Mobility Awards