Friday, 18 March 2016

An Interview with Leonard Matchan

 In “Jersey Topic 1965” there is an interview with millionaire Len Matchan at his home in Jersey. But all that was to change. From 1966 until his death, Matchan became the tenant of Brecqhou.

After Matchan’s death there was legal wrangling between his company (Solaria Investments), which owned the island, and his son. In 1993 it was purchased for £2.33 million by the billionaire businessmen David and Frederick Barclay

Numismatically, there’s a One Brecqhou Knacker pertaining to the islet. The total mintage of 150 specimens were privately made for Leonard Matchan, at that time director of Bell Fruit and owner of the island, by the Franklin mint in the 1970's. These were distributed to friends and inhabitants of the island.

The obverse bears a coat-of-arms; the escutcheon (registered at the College of Arms) of Leonard Joseph Matchan (1966-87), who as owner would have been officially known as Seigneur de Brecqhou.

The reverse reads One Brecqhou Knacker and has a long vertical image which not only represents the numeral “1” but which simultaneously and unmistakably appears to depict an upright portion of the male anatomy, with a single knacker tenuously linked to its base. The stylistically graphic, phallic likeness is quite purposeful, considering just how aptly it complements the racy quality of the British slang term for “testicle”, employed here as a monetary denomination.

talks to Ted Vibert

IT WAS TEN O'CLOCK in the morning and the sun was spreading silver streaks across Bouley Bay. Mr. Leonard Matchan was looking out at the view from his beautiful penthouse above the Waters Edge Hotel, which he owns, and was being honest and frank.

"Yes, I came to Jersey six years ago originally to escape paying death duties. This was my prime reason for coming for having paid my taxes like everyone else I could see no reason why I should pay the British government such a high price for dying. Once here, of course, I discovered that Jersey was the perfect place for me to direct operations of my three major companies, which are now worldwide."

His penthouse is, in fact, his office. There he sits, with a breathtaking view in front of him, and takes a detached view of his multifarious businesses.

"I doubt if I could do what I do without Jersey" he said. "Here I can make important decisions without being bogged down with day-to-day detail. It is bad in business for the top man to be too close to it. I believe he should be detached, but with good lines of communication. If I was in London I would be dealing daily with a stream of executives all wanting to check that a decision they had made was the right one. Now they must stand or fall by their decisions-which is what I pay them for".

He controls his businesses by constant travel and the telephone. I had heard many times of the complex telephone system operating at the Waters Edge and he confirmed that daily he either calls or receives calls from almost every country in the world. Soon teleprinters will be installed to tighten up the channels of communication. "Telephone contact is all very well," he said, "but I am constantly being pulled out of bed to talk to someone on the other side of the world who has forgotten that ten o'clock in the morning there is not ten o'clock here."

Soon he will be bringing a team of super-salesmen for all of his groups to Jersey, from where they will operate. Their function will be to go out to all parts of the world and drum up business. "I expect us to treble our turnover in three years" he said enthusiastically."This will bring an awful lot of money to Jersey, for the island will be the nerve centre of operations".

There is no doubt of his love for Jersey-but he is also puzzled by the attitude of the Island Development Committee over his application to knock down the Bouley Bay Hotel, which he owns, and build a modern one in its place. "You cannot disagree with me that the Bouley Bay Hotel is a terrible eyesore. Yet I have been told that I can only build one the same as the existing one, if I knock it down. What they are doing is perpetrating an abomination. How can they possibly justify such a decision?"

Mr. Leonard Matchan is truly a local boy made good for he was born in Fulham and spent most of his young life in Croydon. His father was a sewing machine operator and he won a scholarship to a local grammar school. He describes himself as an "average" pupil. He qualified for accountancy at the age of 20 and joined an accountants firm in the City as a tax expert. "I wasn't one" he says, "but I think I got the job for saying so".

He then dallied around with making films and in 1933 at the age of 22 he went to America to continue this profession. Things went wrong and at the end of the year he was back at his old job of accountancy.

As a tax expert with a number of prominent men as clients he was soon to meet Mr. Davis Factor, head of the Max Factor cosmetics firm and it was this meeting that set him along the path to the Matchan empire. "Factors were about to open a factory in Britain and I became their first manager. This was in 1936. Within a year we had a staff of over 120 working".

After the war he was quick to notice that there was a world shortage of lipstick holders and he took over a Bournemouth engineering firm to produce them. Today, the company has 900 employees making nearly two million containers a week. They have factories in France, South Africa, America, Germany, Spain and Italy. 

And he has absorbed into his network companies producing aerosol valves to bicycles, contraceptives to aircraft components. He works a long day, even though he's boss. "I start at about 7.30 in the morning and go right through until midnight." Yes, he had thought about retiring - in fact had retired twice. "Once for three weeks, the other time for three days. To me, work is life. I don't do what I do just to make money. Of course, I could stop work immediately. But I am, in every sense, married to my work. I like it, enjoy it".

He has a tremendous get-up-and-go attitude to business that is refreshing in this day of flabby and complacent businessmen. His attitude on exports is one which Mr. Harold Wilson should write out and send as a guide to most British firms. "I hate most export managers like the plague" he says. "Nearly everyone I have met has a big office in London which he seldom moves out of. You don't get business that way. You get business by getting up off your backside and going out after it."

"If I meet difficulties in exporting to countries I go to that country and set up a factory on the spot. I operate on a basis that if I can't lick them I'll join them." It is a philosophy that has reaped immense rewards.

And so I left him. A happy, busy tycoon. A man who has made a million and is controlling a vast business empire, sitting in a penthouse overlooking Bouley Bay, with a lovely Alsatian dog called "Match" at his feet. It had been a refreshing morning.

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