Sir Peter Rigby’s Birmingham-based Specialist Computer Holdings has had the best year in its 37-year history. Europe’s largest privately-owned technology group saw double-digit growth for the year to March 31, 2012.
Revenues at SCH increased by 11 per cent to £2.76 billion and total group profits after tax were £22.9 million – 102 per cent up on 2011, with growth in all territories across Europe, proving that the eurozone isn’t the economic wasteland that some would have us believe.
Total operating profit increased 82 per cent to £34.1 million and the balance sheet remained strong with net assets increasing to £147.8 million and a positive net cash balance. Spain, the Netherlands, France and Romania have all contributed to the success of the group.
In August the company became the first UK provider to receive pan-government accreditation for its ground-breaking public sector cloud services platform OptimiseCloud, enabling the company to provide a new generation of secure, flexible systems to government bodies.
In September the company disposed of some of its distribution subsidiaries in the UK, France and the Netherlands to Tech Data Corporation, netting nearly £220 million
The month before, Sir Peter accepted the role of chairman of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). He brushed aside any doubts about the appointment and came out fighting, insisting that the LEP could help build a stronger local economy for everyone’s benefit.
A joint venture between the LEP and Roxhill Developments has resulted in the Coventry and Warwickshire Development Partnership, which has put forward ambitious plans for the Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway – a planned £250 million development which could provide up to 14,000 jobs for the region. The scheme includes a new technology hub on land north of Coventry Airport, and a manufacturing and logistics hub to the south.
The scheme also includes road improvements to remove longstanding traffic logjams, improving the Tollbar junction and making access to the Whitley Business Park easier.
Aviation enthusiast Sir Peter bailed out Coventry Airport in 2010 and has ambitious plans for it. His aviation group, Patriot Aerospace, bought the airport and gave it the promise of becoming a vibrant hub once again. Before Sir Peter acquired it, the airport had been closed for months after the previous owner was wound up with spiralling debts.
Patriot has also acquired commercial helicopter charter specialist Veritair Aviation as part of its expansion plans. It is hoped the acquisition will enable the Cardiff-based firm to make inroads into police contracts, the air ambulance market, and high-value commercial contracts.
Sir Peter recently added Brockencote Hall in Worcestershire to his luxury hotel chain. The Victorian mansion at Chaddesley Corbett near Kidderminster becomes the fifth hotel in Sir Peter’s Eden Hotel Collection which also includes the Michelin-starred Mallory Court Hotel near Leamington.
The founder and head of technology giant Specialist Computers (SCH) has three more hotels as part of the group: the upmarket and exclusive Kings Hotel in Chipping Campden, the Arden Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon and Buckland Tout-Saints in Kingsbridge, Devon.
Liverpool-born Sir Peter, aged 69, founded SCH in 1975 with just £2,000 in cash. The company is now listed at number six in the Institute for Family Businesses Top Ten of family-owned businesses. Sir Peter’s sons James and Steven are both senior directors, with James running the firm’s high-performing UK division.
A qualified fixed wing and helicopter pilot, Sir Peter’s aviation group is based in Gloucester and Cranfield. As well as Coventry Airport, it operates flying schools, charter operations and helicopter maintenance, indulging Sir Peter’s passion for all mechanical things that fly. He also holds Cessna and Schweizer distributorships.
SCH provides European blue chip companies and government organisations, including HM Revenue and Customs, BAE Systems, Heinz, Fiat and DaimlerChrysler, with desktop services, computer networks and products. It is a successful organisation, with more than 5,500 staff and over 80 offices in cities across Europe.
Sir Peter devotes much of his time and money to charity. The Rigby Foundation Charitable Trust supports child-related causes and children’s hospices. It also donates to charities for the aged, either with cash support or by providing IT equipment, training and expertise.
Sir Peter was knighted in the Queen’s Jubilee Honours for his contribution to information technology and business.