A SCIENTIST and entrepreneur whose radical rescue plan transformed the mothballed ICI headquarters into a thriving business park in Runcorn has announced his retirement.
Dr Peter Cook, who was at the centre of the project to create the Heath Business And Technical Park, will step down as chairman of the complex’s owners SOG Ltd at the end of the month.
Dr Cook, 71, founded the firm and negotiated the purchase of the site from ICI in 2000 after the chemicals giant announced it was closing the buildings.
Under his leadership, with support from former ICI colleagues and Liverpool businessman John Lewis, SOG set about regenerating the site by turning it into a business park that today is home to more than 150 separate businesses employing more than 1,900 staff.
In 2010 Dr Cook, a chemical engineer by trade, took on the chairmanship of SOG after Mr Lewis was appointed managing director.
Dr Cook said: “I’m immensely proud of SOG and what has been achieved here over the past 13 years.
“I’m particularly grateful to all the staff and our contractors, who have given me unwavering support, and to the numerous residents who chose the Heath as the location for their businesses.
“I believe I’m standing aside at a time when the company is in a very strong position with several exciting new-build projects in the pipeline as the site reaches near full capacity.
“It has been a quite remarkable story and I’m pleased that our achievements have been widely recognised, regionally and nationally.
“It is important that the business continues to thrive and move forward – a process which started two years ago when John Lewis took over as managing director to ensure we can meet the challenges ahead.
“I feel now is the right time to step down as chairman to enable the new-look SOG to press on and for the company to reach even greater heights in the future.”
Dr Cook said he wished to pay special tribute to the SOG team he brought with him following the ICI site closure, which he says was vital to the business success story.
He added: “There were sceptics back in 2000 who doubted the wisdom of SOG taking on 50 skilled workers from ICI with a final salary pension scheme to help to develop our business model.
“There were many who thought we would not survive.
“However, I viewed the skilled people who supported the scientific research and development, as the gold dust that would help us launch a successful business – and I was proved right!”