Sir Denys Henderson, British businessman, Died at 83


Sir Denys Hartley Henderson was born on October 11, 1932, and died on May 21, 2016.

He was a British businessman, chairman of ICI from 1987 to 1995.

He joined the secretary’s department at ICI head office in 1957 and was paid £900 a year.

Apparently he said “The honest truth is I just wanted a job that paid the rent” adding that “I found the change from having a huge amount of personal initiative and personal responsibility as a prosecuting officer to being a ‘scrubber’ in the secretary’s department not very stimulating – I made one or two attempts to leave but never did.”

Sir Denys went on to hold different ICI legal posts including at Paints and after taking on various commercial roles went on to become Chairman of the Paints division in 1977, a position he held until 1980 when he joined the main ICI board.

Sir Denys joined the main ICI board in 1980 and was appointed deputy chairman in 1986, succeeding Sir John Harvey-Jones as chairman a year later.

Sir Denys was instrumental in implementing a major streamlining of ICI to help it ride out the recession and face up to the tough competition of the 1990s, including a severe belt-tightening and decentralised organisation with a lot of authority delegated to the chief executives who ran the individual businesses.

Because of his service to not only his business but his country, Henderson was created a Knight Bachelor in 1989.

Hanson shared that on May 15, 1991, it had purchased about 20 million, or 2.8 percent, of ICI’s shares, leading to speculation of a possible takeover of what was at the time the UK’s third-largest company.

The management team headed by Henderson and Frank Whitely, its deputy chairman, led the takeover-defense plan against Lord Hanson, the chairman of Hanson, and his partner, Sir Gordon White (later Lord White of Hull), enlisting the help of S. G. Warburg & Co, the British investment bank, and Goldman, Sachs & Company, the American investment bank.

Lord Hanson was forced to back down from the takeover.

Sir Denys Henderson was also in charge when ICI split in two in June 1993 to create Zeneca.

Sir Denys Henderson said “the demerger will produce two powerful, focused new companies able to concentrate even more on strengthening their leading positions in world markets”.

He was also chairman of the Zeneca Group from 1993 until 1995.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate in law in 1993 by the University of Bath.