Stagecoach (2012)

A Classic Rags to Riches Tale from the Frontiers of Capitalism
– Kemsing Publishing; 2012; 285 pages (Kindle edition)
– Orion Books; 1999; 288 pages; ISBN 0752830880 (Paperback edition)

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available-on-kindleThe rise of Stagecoach was an emblematic story of the Conservative era of the 1980s and 1990s. This book tells the story of how the two founders, the brother and sister team of Brian Souter and Ann Gloag, emerged from humble beginnings on a bleak Perth council estate in central Scotland to become multi-millionaires, worth at one time £300m each.

Christian Wolmar details how they started with a caravan business and, soon after the deregulation of the coach industry in 1980, began operating services between London and Scotland. It was a small family business with their parents making sandwiches and Brian often driving the coach himself. But it soon caught on and grew into a respectable sized business.

However, it was further deregulation by the Tories, when the bus market was opened up in 1985, that gave Stagecoach the opportunity to become a major player. Stagecoach was in a position to take advantage of the break up and privatisation of the National Bus Company and quickly acquired three local companies. That was to be the platform which allowed Stagecoach to become a major player in the UK transport market.

But what gives this book an edge over conventional company histories is the fact that Stagecoach, throughout its early years, courted controversy. It competed against other bus companies by flooding the market with services, sometimes operating them for free until their opponents gave up. At one stage, it even drove Ann’s estranged husband Robin out of business when he had the temerity to start a rival local service in Perth. The company faced a string of enquiries by the Office of Fair Trading and the height of controversy was when Stagecoach drove the local municipal firm in Darlington out of business by running free buses.

Stagecoach: A Classic Rags to Riches Tale from the Frontiers of Capitalism details all these stories and many more, and tells the story of Souter, one of Britain’s most colourful businessmen, famous for his appalling dress sense and his strong religious faith.

Based on exclusive interviews with Souter, including one in November 2012 for the new edition of the book, and other main players and critics, it is a fascinating and inspirational story of one of the unlikeliest success stories of the past two decades.


What they said about Stagecoach…

‘Corporate cowboys or genuine geniuses – or maybe both? Christian Wolmar gives an honest and illuminating account of how Brian Souter and Ann Gloag have made Stagecoach the greatest start-up business of the Conservative years’
Hamish McRae, The Independent

‘Anyone who thinks that the Scots have lost their entrepreneurial flair should read this riveting account of the birth and growth of the Stagecoach empire – one of the most extraordinary business success stories of the post-Thatcher era.’,
Magnus Linklater, Former Editor of The Scotsman and Times columnist

‘When you buy this book, and we recommend you do… follow the rise and rise of the Stagecoach empire from the humblest of beginnings. While the author’s tone suggests that he has been won over, like many of us, by Brian Souter’s wit and charm, all the facts are there, leaving the judgement up to the reader’.
Roger Ford, Modern Railways