James Gerald Gulliver

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James Gerald Gulliver CVO FRSE FRSA FICE (17 August 1930 – 12 September 1996) was the founder of Argyll Foods, one of the United Kingdom's largest retail businesses.


He was born in Campbeltown, Scotland, the son of William Frederick Gulliver.[1] He was educated at Campbeltown Grammar School then studied at University of Glasgow and Georgia Institute of Technology, Gulliver served for three years in the Royal Navy before joining Urwick Orr & Partners, management consultants.[2] In 1965 he joined Fine Fare where he became chairman within two years.[2] During his time the business grew from a turnover of £75 million to £200 million.

In 1977, together with Alistair Grant, a marketing specialist who he had worked with at Fine Fare, and David Webster, a merchant banker, he founded James Gulliver Associates. In September 1978, he bought the meat company belonging to Manchester United chairman Louis Edwards for £100,000 plus shares and renamed it Argyll Foods, acquiring numerous retail concerns including 130 Safeway outlets.[2] Within 10 years of the purchase, the company was worth £1.7 billion. Gulliver also bought 100,000 of Edwards' shares in Manchester United for £250,000 and was given a seat on the club's board of directors (although fellow director and former manager Matt Busby abstained from the vote to give Gulliver a seat, saying he did not know who Gulliver was).[3] Gulliver later became the club's vice-president. He sold his stake in 1986, but retained two seats in the directors' box at the club's Old Trafford ground.[4] He was also the vice-chairman of Heart of Midlothian.[5]

In 1985, he tried unsuccessfully to acquire Distillers but lost the bidding to Guinness. He retired from the business later that year.[2]

In 1990, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Hugh Sutherland, Ronald Roberts, Sir Kenneth Alexander and Sir Monty Finniston.[1]

He was awarded the CVO in 1995 for his services to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.[5]

He died in Edinburgh in 1996.[5]


He was married four times: Margaret Joan Cormack (1958), Joanne Simms (1977), Marjorie H. Moncrieff (1985) and lastly Melanie Crossley (1993).[1] He had five children with his first wife Joan: James, Fiona, Andrew, Alison and Iain.[2]


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b c Biological index of former fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e James Gulliver Chairman of Food Group dies at 66 New York Times, 17 September 1996
  3. ^ Dewhurst, Keith (2009). When You Put on a Red Shirt. London: Yellow Jersey Press. p. 258. ISBN 9780224082839.
  4. ^ Basham, Brian (23 September 1996). "Obituary:James Gulliver". The Independent. Independent Print. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  5. ^ Jump up to: a b c "RSE Fellowship" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 19 July 2009.

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