We have received the sad news that UK crane man Stan Thompson, who worked with BET, J.D White and Hewden Stuart in the 1970s and 1980s passed away on Thursday September 19th. He would have been 90 at the end of this month.
Born in Sunderland, North East England, he attended Ryhope Grammar School and started his career as an articled accountant with Peat Marwick Mitchell - now KPMG. During his time with the company he became the auditor for Middlesbrough based bridge builder and steel fabricator Dorman Long - later Redpath Dorman Long - this took him into the heavy engineering sector and would almost certainly have been his first introduction to cranes.
Having qualified as a chartered accountant he joined EMI and moved to London, where he eventually became involved with the conglomerate British Electric Traction – later to become BET - which owned a number of businesses including electricity generation, a large bus division and transport companies, which were nationalised in the 1960s by the Labour Government of the time.
The sales of these companies led to it accumulating a £68 million cash pile which it was looking to invest in acquisitions and diversification by the time Thompson began working for the group. One of the first of acquisitions was road roller and compactor equipment rental company Eddison Plant Hire, which also got into Forklift rental. Thompson became the company secretary and was recruited into the holding group’s mergers and acquisition team and was involved with the acquisition of JD White - a scrap handling company in Teeside which had also opened a crane hire division - from the White family in 1970. He was then told that since he had seemed so keen on acquiring the crane hire, company, which was a more specialised rental business he should go and manage it. His appointment as managing director of J.D White kicked of his crane industry career in which he remained until he retired in the late 1980s.
Once he had got to grips with the business, he decided to sell off the scrap operations - JD white had got into crane hire after having built or modified a crane to create a scrap handler with large magnet attachment. Before long the local South Durham Steel works had spotted it and wanted to hire in on a long term contract. This process was repeated and the company moved from this to becoming involved in general Crane hire. As already said Thompson sold off the scrap business and then used the proceeds to expand the crane hire business, developing it into a company that had a first class reputation for being well organised and quality conscious. Early in his JD White days he teamed up with David Morton, who had joined the company in 1965 as a sales rep and then moved into operations. The two made a formidable team as they expanded the business, adding a number of large cranes to the top end of the fleet and acquiring a number of northern based crane and equipment rental companies including Derby based Bowmer & Kirkland and W.C.Mandy of South Shields.
BET continued to acquire equipment rental companies both in the UK and in the USA. This included Grayston Crane Hire in the early 1980s and then as part of a reorganisation insisted on merging it with JD White, in spite of the fact that the two companies had significantly different business cultures. By 1985 Thompson had fallen out with BET’s senior management and decided to call it a day. The business went on to become Grayson White and Sparrow, following the acquisition of the Bath based Sparrow Crane Hire business. It was later absorbed into Ainscough Crane Hire. After leaving JD White Thompson joined Hewden Stuart crane hire, where he remained until retiring.
At this time he also played a significant role, with ex colleague David Morton, in negotiating the UK’s National Agreement for Crane Operators Pay and conditions, which was widely adopted by the industry.
Thompson led an active life, having played football in the Northern League when younger, and progressing to golf as his business career progressed. He became a strong player and became involved with the running of his local golf club, bringing his accountancy skills to bear. He remained a member until the very end and played his last game earlier this year.
A Thanksgiving Service for his life will be held on Monday 30th September at St Marys Nunthorpe Middlesbrough at 14:30.
He leaves behind wife Brenda, daughter Judith and son Peter