Alick Dick

Born in 1916, Alick Dick had family connections to one of William Hillman’s six daughters.

 

Another daughter married Sir John Black and in that way, the young Dick came to be known to John Black. Black invited the 18-year-old Dick to become an Apprentice at Standard around 1934, when Black became joint MD.   

It’s always good to have friends in high places of course and that adage was never more ably demonstrated than in this case.

Obviously, Dick’s business acumen was considerable. Quickly promoted, he became Head Buyer for Standard’s huge facility at Banner Lane by 1940. That was a huge success and Sir John invited the young Dick to become his Personal Assistant in 1945. Within 2 years Black invited him to join the Standard Board but his meteoric rise did not end there.

 

In 1951 he formally became Sir John’s Deputy. Sir John was known for his impetuous behaviour, bordering on dictatorship, while Dick always looked for consensus.

A management dispute late in 1953 between the Standard Board and Sir John, the reasons for which are still debated, resulted in The Board, led by Dick, asking for Sir John’s resignation in early January - which he gave, citing ill health.

 

The Board asked Dick to take-over as Managing Director, while Black departed with a large severance package to his farm in North Wales.

Once occupying Sir John’s palatial office, Dick set about a twin strategy, the components of which strike this author as not being entirely complementary. Dick envisaged that the company was not big enough to compete with world-leading manufacturers.

 

His first strategy was to discuss mergers. First with Rover, then Chrysler, then the Rootes Group, then Rover again. None of these came to fruition, possibly because he wanted them too much on Standard’s terms.

It is fortunate therefore that the 2nd strategy was more successful, which was to buy up several key suppliers to make the company substantially bigger by those mergers. In the late 1950s, there was a rush of acquisitions. Beans Industries of Tipton, (castings) the Radford factory (transmissions) Mulliners and Hall Engineering (both Body suppliers), Fisher and Ludlow (more bodies) and Alforder and Newton, Hemel Hempstead (suspension ad steering) were all taken over.  By now, the press were calling him the 'Wonder Boy' of the British Motor Industry.

This wasn’t the limit of Dicks expansion for the car building side. The sell-off of the Tractor interests to Massey Harris of Canada freed up another £12m that Dick invested in a new Assembly Hall at Canley, initially to build the Herald, but with a planned capacity to build 150,000 cars per year. There was also a considerable expansion of production plants abroad.

Then, for the first time in his life, Dick had put a foot wrong. Profits that were more than adequate in 1958 diminished in 1959 and by 1960, were running at a monthly loss. With it seems, little due diligence, Standard-Triumph was taken over by Leyland Motors of Preston in late 1960. Leyland put in a new Management team led by Stanley Markland, Donald Stokes and Sydney Baybutt. There then followed a serious blood-letting of Standard senior Managers.

 

Dick survived that, but by September 1961 he too was ousted and replaced by Markland.  He was only 45 years old, but he never worked for Leyland or Standard-Triumph again.

Phil Homer

March 2021

Alick Dick, managing director of the Standard Motor Company, sits at the wheel of a 1906 30 hp Standard two-seater, the second oldest surviving Standard.

 

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