Businessman, chairman of bus manufacturing firm
Born: 17 December, 1938, in Lanarkshire.
Died: 28 October, 2008, in Edinburgh, aged 69.
WITH his shrewd financial mind and keen understanding of commerce, Bill Cameron OBE reinvigorated the troubled Falkirk bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis in 2004. Within a few years, the company was re-established and Cameron supervised the expansion of the business by securing valuable orders from overseas. In so doing, he ensured the livelihood of his workforce and brought financial security to a hard-pressed area of the Scottish economy.
Alexander Dennis manufactures a range of single and double-decker buses with much of the production still based in the Falkirk factories. Cameron's canny foresight ensured that large orders for the most modern – and environmentally friendly – buses have been recently secured from Toronto, and Washington. The company also manufactures chassis for fire engines.
In June 2006 Douglas Alexander, then Secretary of State for Scotland, visited the Falkirk headquarters of Alexander Dennis to celebrate the company's success in securing orders worth 25 million. In two short years Cameron had rebuilt the firm as one of the leading industrial companies in Scotland. Cameron always stayed in close touch with his staff; he was a "hands-on" manager and often rolled up his sleeves to work alongside colleagues on the shop floor.
William Cameron (always Bill to friends and colleagues) was born in Leadhills, attended Biggar High School and served his engineering apprenticeship with Smith Engineering of Wishaw. He was soon singled out for promotion and in the mid-1950s was appointed chairman of the European division of Hoover. From 1993 Cameron was managing director of Walter Alexander before it was sold to the Mayflower Group in 2000.
Mayflower went into administration with debts of 200 million in 2004 and a consortium was formed by the Edinburgh-based merchant bank Noble Grossart to take over the bus division. The investors included such eminent Scots as Sir David Murray, Ann Gloag and Brian Souter. Cameron joined the company as chief executive and scaled down some of the divisions: the Belfast and Wigan plants were closed but the core profitable businesses were retained.
They produced first-class products but Cameron realised production had to be streamlined and modernised. To this end he built up a clear understanding with his workforce and the trust between management and staff was always excellent.
For the 18 months to September 2005 the company made a loss of 6.6 million and while some of that was as a result of the closures, Cameron was well aware he had to refocus the company and expand the manufacture of its best-selling coaches. This he did through shrewd investment in new designs and he was soon rewarded, also that year, with excellent sales to Hong Kong and Ireland.
Later, Cameron, who often travelled worldwide with a fleet of the company's buses, received orders from Las Vegas, New York and British Columbia for the company's advanced Enviro500 model He defined his aim for Alexander Dennis as, "to raise our sights and seek out new global opportunities". In this Cameron proved resoundingly successful: his turning around of the fortunes of Alexander Dennis ensured at least 750 jobs in the Falkirk area.
Cameron returned Alexander Dennis to a respected position in the Scottish business community within three years. He would always modestly say that many others were involved in that success but it was his positive attitude, drive and commitment that many consider made it all possible. It was an extraordinary commercial achievement and he was able to admit by 2006 that the company "was back on an even keel".
His many achievements – commercial and on behalf of the Falkirk area – were rewarded with an OBE in 2003.
While his business career was an important factor in his life, Cameron remained a devoted family man. He was a long-time and avid supporter of Rangers and Falkirk football clubs and a keen golfer.
Bill Cameron is survived by his wife, Carol, and their son and daughter.