Degree Speeches

Summer 2000


Dr Martin Read

Public Orator, Professor James L Alty, presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Congregation held on Friday 14 July 2000 at 3.00pm

Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen

We all know the quote from As You Like It by William Shakespeare that "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their entrances and their exits, and one man in his time plays many parts".

Today, Chancellor, we honour a man whose stage is a global one, who has already demonstrated that he can play many leading parts on this world stage, but who, in contrast to most thespians, also likes to have a hand in designing the scenery, writing the music, and if he had been a contemporary of Shakespeare would almost certainly have given Shakespeare a list of suggested improvements to be incorporated in the next version of his play.

Dr Martin Peter Read, was born in 1950 in Tooting. After attending Queen Mary Grammar School Basingstoke, he read Physics at Cambridge. At the time he was not clear what sort of career to follow but had a general feeling that he would like to be a senior academic. He did not follow this course - to his Bank Manager's great relief. Instead, he took advice from an uncle who, interestingly, lived and worked here at Loughborough, and, as a result, sought and obtained a grant from the Atomic Energy Authority to study for a D Phil at Oxford.

It was at Cambridge, and later at Oxford, that Martin Read became interested in Amateur Dramatics. He played many parts in plays - usually villains - for example, Iago in Othello and Blifil the evil brother in Tom Jones. Eventually he began directing plays, culminating in a Christmas performance of Aladdin at Merton College. The play was observed by none other than J.R.Tolkien (the author of Lord of the Rings) who was heard to comment afterwards, "Simple, Very Simple, but Amusing!" It was at Oxford that he met his charming wife Marion who was reading Modern languages.

Martin Read completed his research doctorate at Oxford in 1974 submitting a thesis with the title "The Formation and Consequences of Point Clusters on Dislocations". Apparently, eight copies were produced on the original production run, and Marion tells me there are still some for sale. Sensing that this title might not be a best seller he joined Overseas Containers Limited and, whilst working there, took the sensible precaution of obtained an Accountancy Diploma.

After a senior position with Courtaulds, he climbed the promotion ladder rapidly. In 1985, Dr Read was appointed Managing Director of the GEC Marconi Radar and Control Systems group of companies. By 1993 this group had sales of approximately £500 million and a staff of 7000.

In the same year he joined LOGICA as Managing Director and Chief Executive. At that time the company was in poor shape. It had great technical strength but lacked business flair. At the time it was anticipated that, after this appointment, things at Logica would never be the same again. As one Director of the Board at the time commented "Voting for Martin Read was like turkeys voting for Christmas!"

Under his leadership the market capitalisation of Logica has grown from £130 million to £7 billion, turning in record profits for five successive years. Dr Read has concentrated on the company's traditional strengths, exploiting them on an international scale using repeatable solutions. When he joined Logica, he set himself the apparently impossible target of achieving Footsie-100 status for the company, a status which was achieved in 1999. Indeed Logica are now in the Footsie-50 list. Logica's dominance in the telecommunications market is demonstrated by the fact that their systems are now responsible for handling over half the world's mobile telecommunications messages, and their systems also handle 50% of the world's financial transactions.

Recognition and other appointments have followed his success. He was named Computing Magazine's Man-of-the-year in 1996. He is currently a Non-executive Director of Boots, of British Airways, and was until recently a non-executive director of ASDA. He is currently on the Council of Southampton University.

Dr Read's aim is to make the Logica name a truly global brand. It is already in 32 countries having 90 offices world-wide. Many have little doubt that he will achieve this ambition.

In his acting days, Dr Martin Read was invariably cast as a villain. When he began work at Logica he must have seemed to many to be adopting a similar role. However, seven years on, it may be argued that he even beginning to look like a hero, combining a proven intellectual capability with a sound business flair to achieve enviable results. British industry needs more leaders like Martin Read.

Therefore, Chancellor, I present to you Dr Martin Peter Read for the conferment of the degree of Doctor of Technology (Honoris Causa) in this University.

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