TRUE GRIT BY NORMAN JACKSON

By: NJ 05/07/2019

In uncertain times, it is important for business to focus on holding steady and to hang on to the values of integrity and compassion. JFP Partner,Norman Jackson, takes a look at the career of one of the UK's most successful and philanthropic entrepreneurs.

I met Neil Bruce Copp in 1987 when we were both new tenants in the London House Business Centre at the top of the Lower Mortlake Road in Richmond.

Neil had been CEO of the British Luggage Group PLC, the world’s second largest luggage company, at the time when personal computers (PCs) were entering the marketplace – and realising they need to be protected from dirt, dust and damage, he had founded the Targus Group, which provided PC carrying cases, quickly obtaining orders from IBM and ICL. I could tell he was a man on a mission.

A few years later, we both left London House – and our paths did not cross again until 2006, when London Scottish played Barnes Rugby Club, where Neil was President. He told me he had sold Targus in 1996 to the Private Equity company Fenway Partners, when the company was operating in over 100 countries and turnover had reached £100 million (that was around 15 million computer cases per annum). The sales price had been $382 million, making seven of his employees millionaires, including the original receptionist – brilliant!

Sadly, Neil died a couple of years later at the tender age of 66 – on 31st December 2008. So, ten years on, it is good to salute him and remember that his achievements should illustrate the kind of endeavour we need to emulate when we navigate post Brexit territory.

After the sale of Targus, he and his wife, Monique, founded the Neil Bruce Copp Foundation, their family’s charitable trust, to support worthy causes, including disadvantaged and disabled children and centres for young adults with cancer.

One of his fundraising activities was cycling from London to Paris and then London to Brussels on behalf of the Royal British Legion and around the Arctic Circle with his son Jonathan and two longstanding friends, for the Royal Star and Garter Home in Richmond.

As a keen and talented sportsman, he supported the Barnes Rugby Club (former Chairman, Captain and major sponsor), the Esher Rugby Club and the Teddington Cricket Club. He also raised money for the installation of disabled access and facilities at his local church, St Andrew’s on Ham Common. He believed passionately in his country and was instrumental in founding the Richmond Park Branch of the Royal Society of St George, an organisation dedicated to promoting all that is virtuous about England, under the patronage of HM The Queen.

One of his favourite quotes was from Winston Churchill, namely: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” And fittingly, he was made an OBE in 2005 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to charity – a great example of a successful entrepreneur making a significant impact in the community.

So, if you feel your company needs to focus or re-focus, remember Neil Bruce Copp and how he grew his businesses and his charities with integrity and true grit.