Bob Jack, one of the most well-known and respected figures on the

Scottish corporate law scene, is to retire. Having been in the thick of

business ebb and flow for more than four decades, he has many a story to

tell, and confesses himself worried about our business future, as Alf

Young discovers.

THEY will soon be seeing a bit more of him on the links at Shiskine on

Arran -- the only 12-hole course in the record books. The club's former

captain (1973/75) has just retired from his main day job.

Professor Bob Jack, one of the most well-kent and respected figures on

the Scottish corporate law scene, has relinquished his senior partner

role at McGrigor Donald, the firm he first joined as an indentured

apprentice way back in 1948. Even in his Who's Who entry Bob Jack lists

Arran as both a retreat and a restorative.

A 30-year love affair with the island has progressed from annual

family stays in the Kinloch Hotel, donning the oilskins each morning to

cross from the annexe to breakfast in the main hotel, to a holiday home

in Blackwaterfoot, across the road from Ernst & Young's Donald Turner.

Of his directorship of Clyde Football Club, Jack is more circumspect.

''Hopeful support of one of Glasgow's less fashionable football teams'',

his entry states, of a club he admits has become a bit of a drug. His

former partners at McGrigors call Clyde his charitable work.

''We don't read the Sunday papers in our house if Clyde lose,'' says

Jack. That dependency looks like outlasting the club's move to

Cumbernauld, although Jack says he started out a Rangers supporter. He

still remembers the schoolboy tears when his hero Jerry Dawson was

carried off in an Exhibition Cup tie in 1938.

Bob Jack, who cut his teeth on conveyancing but has majored in the

commercial field (including a 15-year occupancy of the chair of

mercantile law at Glasgow University), has been in the thick of

Scotland's business ebb and flow for more than four decades.

In the 1980s he was also called on to play a part on the UK scene,

serving on the Stock Exchange council while it wrestled with the initial

implications of the Guinness affair and later chairing an important

government inquiry into banking law. He has many a story to tell.

Jack was just 29 when he became only the 14th partner in McGrigor

Donald's long history, in 1957. He recalls one partner advising him to

stay mum about his age, because others in the McGrigor hierarchy

mistakenly thought he was 32. Some of the clients Jack encountered then

seem now, through the telescope of age, built on the grand scale.

The Glasgow business scene then seemed awash with larger-than-life

figures. Frank Lilley, of the recently-failed construction group, who

went on to become MP for Kelvingrove. Hugh Stenhouse, prematurely killed

in a car crash. Sir Hugh, later Lord Fraser, planning his raid on

Harrods or his Aviemore dream. Jack recalls someone telling him, ''That

project (Aviemore) will not pay off until the costs become historic.''

Among McGrigor clients Jack had two particular favourites: Isidore

''Isi'' Walton, founder of property group, Scottish Metropolitan, and

Niall Hodge, once of Blackwood Hodge, later of Scottish Land


Hodge made his money by realising the importance of earth-moving

equipment to the period of post-war reconstruction. He had advertised

for derelict land and, one day, got a call from an Air Ministry surveyor

about the airfield at Turnberry. He bought it, Jack relates, for a song

and then proceeded to dig up so much copper wire from the underground

communications system that the deal quickly paid for itself.

With Jack advising him, Hodge was planning a market listing for SLD.

We are in the Wilson years, when changes in corporation and capital

gains taxes encouraged a great rush of Scottish companies -- Lilley,

Watson & Philip, Stakis, Hewden Stuart, and car dealers Fraser

Westfield, for example -- to the stock market.

Hodge had made his pile. He had fallen in love with Turnberry and made

his home there, in the converted control tower. He had a 200-tonne steam

yacht, the Maureen Mhor, launched by Yarrow in 1961. But he eventually

took cold feet at the idea of a market listing. Instead Bob Jack found

himself advising on a trade sale of SLD, in 1967, to an English company

called the Wiles Group.

That deal involved Jack in negotiations with two Wiles directors

called James Hanson and Gordon White. Yes, the sale of Scottish Land

Development was one of the earliest deals in the remarkable evolution of

Hanson plc. And the Hanson mode of operation was clear even then. Wiles

quickly sold the plant hire side of SLD to Hewden Stuart.

Hodge was a significant benefactor and, although he died in 1981, Bob

Jack's links with him remain, through the chairmanship of the Turnberry


Isi Walton was a client of McGrigors from his early days in property.

Jack's mentor within the firm, Archie Riddell, used to take instructions

from Walton in Fuller's tearoom. ''Isi never bought a property in those

days unless he knew he could let it,'' recalls Jack.

Bob Jack still marvels at the degree of trust, uncommitted to paper,

which then existed between Walton and his legal advisers. That pre-let

policy saw ScotMet through the property crash of 1974. But things, of

late, have not been so happy. Now deputy chairman of ScotMet himself,

Jack muses, ''I always think if Isi's looking down on us he won't be too


Jack's first outside directorship was with quoted Glasgow timber

merchants Brownlee in 1974, at the invitation of Paddy Barns-Graham. He

stayed to become chairman in 1984 and, two years later, found himself on

the end of a takeover bid from Meyer International. The Brownlee board

thought they had extracted guarantees from Meyer, that the Brownlee name

and separate identity would be kept.

They weren't. ''You can become very cynical,'' Jack says now. By then

he was a lay member of the Stock Exchange council and when Ernest

Saunders ousted Tom Risk from his promised place as chairman of the

enlarged Guinness, Jack raised in council the question of broken

prospectus promises. ''A lot of them just looked at their boots,'' he


Bob Jack had been in the thick of contentious bids before, acting for

the so-called straight three -- Henry Cowan, Barry Anderson and Hugh

Laughland -- in the 1970s SUITS saga, while the younger Hugh Fraser

''summered and wintered on different sides of the argument'' and Lonrho

eventually succeeded in its takeover bid, despite the resistance of the

trio Jack was advising.

Apart from ScotMet and Brownlee, Jack has many other directorships,

including a longstanding relationship with the family-owned Dunn

bottling business, Scottish Mutual (now part of Abbey National), and

Bank of Scotland, whose board he joined in 1985.

Banking law was the subject of the government committee of inquiry he

chaired between 1987 and 1989, set up in the wake of the Johnson Matthey

affair. The big idea that emerged was the introduction of a code for

banks. Jack believes to this day that the banks' response was ''too

little too late''.

Ask Bob Jack what the most revolutionary change has been in his 45

years in commercial law, and he points unhesitatingly to the

introduction, through a private member's bill in 1961, of the floating

charge over a company's assets to Scotland.

He likens the charge to one of those mechanical grabs in amusement

arcades at the seaside which might leave you with a fluffy toy, might

leave you with nothing. Jack himself was involved in the creation of

Scotland's very first floating charge.

''I still think it's a slightly exorbitant form of security,'' says

Jack. But it's with us still and was followed by the introduction of the

receivership concept to Scotland. Receivers have been busy of late. And

Bob Jack confesses himself worried about our business future.

So much has changed. Information technology. The intense

competitiveness in legal services. Last year he was approached about the

prospects of a trainee place in McGrigors on behalf of the

great-grandson of the partner he himself was first indentured to, in

1948. ''I realised it was time to retire when that happened.'' He'll be