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Remembering Roger Pedder, former Clarks chairman

By Daniel Bardsley

Roger Pedder, the man credited with turning around shoe manufacturer and retailer Clarks, and helping it become one of the sector's top companies globally, has died from leukaemia aged 74.

He became chairman of UK-based Clarks in 1993 following disputes between family members over whether to sell amid stagnant turnover and falling dividends.

A retail specialist, Pedder heavily expanded Clarks' high-street presence, a move that paid off as operating profit increased from £27.6 million in 1993/94 to £94.2 million in 2005/06.

Clarks remains majority family owned, a characteristic that Pedder, who was chairman of European Family Businesses, advocated in a 2009 interview with Campden Wealth.

“I think it is simply a stronger model than these rather selfish models which are publicly quoted companies, where often the owners haven't got a clue what they own,” he said.

Hertfordshire-born Pedder joined Clarks as a graduate trainee in 1963 and during an initial six-year stint with the company acted as personal assistant to chairman Bancroft Clark and married Clark's daughter Sibella.

He went on to work for retailers such as Burtons, BHS and Halfords, and studied business in the United States. In 1988 he rejoined Clarks as a non-executive director. After stepping down as chairman, in 2006, the company – founded in 1825 by brothers Cyrus and James Clark, – continued to grow, becoming the world's fourth-largest shoe business with a significant global retail presence.

Father-of-five Pedder had diverse other business and civic interests, both in the UK and overseas, and acted as chairman for Spa & Salon International and Bargain Booze, among other firms. He also set up and sold a successful pet goods retailer, Pet City.

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