Premises East Anglia
Biography > Hills Electrical > Premises
We decided to open in the vicinity of Cambridge and as we were approached by a manager who wanted to run the show. Finding premises was difficult but eventually I found some premises in the outskirts of Saint Ives that were for sale. We negotiated a purchase of the freehold but the seller was unprepared to sell us the freehold of the car park. This seemed somewhat bizarre but since we had the freehold of the building that was fine we thought.
The premises were in the constituency of John Major who had just ceased to be Prime Minister. We used to try and get the local MP to open the premises because that gave us some press coverage. With John Major we badgered him to come and open up the premises and his office made all sorts of excuses, but we made it clear that we wanted him and eventually he came along. It was made clear that we could do no pre publicity. We arrived there early in the morning and John Major, he was a really nice guy, turned up in the heaviest Jaguar you have ever seen. He entered the building and was greeted by everyone that had was lined up. Before his arrival a couple of Secret Service guys had arrived to make sure the place was safe and they were hanging around. At one point I leaned on a light switch and flicked the lights off by mistake. Hands moved to inside pockets of the Secret Service guys instantly, I’ve never seen such a fast reaction. There was a deep intake of breath and lights went back on.
The decline of the business happened and we set off to try and sell the premises. They were sold very rapidly to a company who sold theatrical lights. A dispute developed between the lighting company and the owner of the car park. The owner of the car park had put a clause into the sale when we first bought it that we would guarantee any subsequent lettings or deals. So for years afterwards the lighting company wouldn't pay the cost of the car park, and the guy who owned the car park would then turn to me to get paid I would pay him and then I would go and chase the lighting company and get paid by them. This was a tedious process and was full of anger because the guy who owned the lighting company hated the guy who owned the car park. Eventually I said to the guy who owned the car park that “life was too short” and apologised for my previous intransigence. He became nice at that point and he never pursued us again. A little deference and politeness goes a long way. I found afterwards on the Internet that the car park owner was highly litigious and had spent over 1,000,000 pounds trying to pursue a debt from a builder of £100,000. He only gave up when he was refused permission to appeal to the house Lords. So, all in all we got out of that one quite lightly.