April 19, 2017 | Articles

Obituary: Sir Arnold Clark (1929-2017)

We were sorry to hear of the passing of Sir Arnold Clark,  Chairman and Chief Executive of the Arnold Clark motor group, and a legend of the UK motor industry.

 

Early years

Known as the first billionaire Scottish businessman, Sir Arnold started life a long way from the yachts and classic car collection of his later years. He was born the son of a shipworker in a Glasgow tenement in Townhead, leaving Dennistoun primary school aged 14 with no qualifications, and little prospects. On leaving the Royal Air Force in 1954, he bought his first car – a 1933 Morris for £70 – and sold it on for a profit after restoring it. With no other work on offer and few qualifications, he used the profits to start buying and restoring more cars, and by the end of 1954 had opened his first car showroom in Glasgow’s Park Road.

As Clark once said: “The reason I started the business was because nobody else would employ me”. But he also was an indefatigable entrepreneur with an old school spirit and instinct. By the 1960s Clark had won his first retail franchise from Morris Motors, and opened three more showrooms in Glasgow, as well as his own finance company. He continued to successfully expand his business and showrooms, and in 1979 landed a franchise partnership with Renault, securing his reputation as the leading car dealer in Scotland. His continued success throughout the 1980s precipitated his expansion into the rest of the UK market in the 1990s.

 

UK expansion

By 2002 Arnold Clark had 97 dealerships across the UK, and was considered Scotland’s largest private company. With over 200 car dealerships by 2016, The Sunday Times Rich List estimated Clark and his family’s fortune to be worth over £1 billion, making him Scotland’s – and the UK’s –  first billionaire car dealer.

He was knighted in 2004 due to services to the motor industry and his community work in Scotland. Both a family man and giant of the motor trade industry who kept his business family-owned for more than 60 years, Sir Arnold Clark died on 10th April 2017, surrounded by his family.

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