Nis­sim Chilton

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries - ALAS­TAIR BALFOUR

THE WELL known Scot­tish busi­ness­man Nis­sim Chilton co-founded, with his younger brother Elie, an in­ter­na­tional tex­tiles man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness in Ayr­shire which grew to be­come the largest in­dus­trial em­ployer in South­West Scot­land. Lat­terly he be­came an ex­pert busi­ness con­sul­tant, as­sist­ing the de­vel­op­ment of many com­pa­nies.

He was also a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the Jewish com­mu­nity in Glas­gow and a gen­er­ous sup­porter of Jewish causes, most no­tably the He­brew Univer­sity of Jerusalem. His charisma, com­bined with re­lent­less drive, per­se­ver­ance and per­sua­sive­ness, made him a pop­u­lar high-pro­file per­son­al­ity within the Ayr­shire and West of Scot­land busi­ness com­mu­nity.

Nis­sim Chilton’s life is a clas­sic story of a well-trav­elled Euro­pean family set­tling in Scot­land to make their for­tune. He moved with the family from Egypt to France in 1959 when just 15, to com­plete his ed­u­ca­tion. The next move was to Le­ices­ter to study tex­tiles de­sign and man­u­fac­ture, be­fore tak­ing a job in Scot­land with a Haw­ick tex­tiles com­pany.

In 1968 the broth­ers launched their own sports­wear and leisure­ware busi­ness, se­cur­ing back­ing from the doyen of Scot­tish mer­chant bank­ing, Sir An­gus Grossart, among oth­ers. Over the next ten years the busi­ness grew dra­mat­i­cally, em­ploy­ing 220 peo­ple and achiev­ing an­nual sales of £17m.

Nis­sim trav­elled in­ces­santly to the Far East, Rus­sia and Europe, sell­ing their output to cloth­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­tail­ers. His par­tic­u­lar skill was in sell­ing to tough-minded in­ter­na­tional cloth­ing re­tail­ers. Marks & Spencer be­came the com­pany’s largest cus­tomer, fol­lowed by Bri­tish Home Stores (BHS). Nis­sim rapidly be­came a mem­ber of the se­lect band of global tex­tile man­u­fac­tur­ers.

The Chiltons in­vested in the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, pro­duc­ing top-qual­ity fab­rics at ever-lower prices. But it could not pro­tect the com­pany from the in­tense price-led com­pe­ti­tion from the Far East and East­ern Europe, which dec­i­mated Bri­tain’s tex­tiles in­dus­try. Nis­sim bore the brunt of the wind­down of the busi­ness, cul­mi­nat­ing in its clo­sure in 2003 with the loss of all re­main­ing 80 jobs – a blow which he felt per­son­ally.

Be­cause the busi­ness had be­come in­sol­vent, its fi­nal-salary pen­sion scheme had been un­der-funded and Chilton em­ploy­ees were wor­ried about los­ing their pen­sion rights. But char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally Nis­sim spent hours cam­paign­ing for the scheme to be sup­ported by the Labour gov­ern­ment’s new Pen­sion Pro­tec­tion Fund. He suc­ceeded in win­ning a £2.5m com­pen­sa­tion pack­age that en­sured no for­mer em­ploy­ees would lose out.

Un­daunted, Nis­sim’s next move was to work on a new project called Wear­able Tech­nolo­gies: he ac­cu­rately fore­saw the trend to­wards de­signer and branded cloth­ing that em­bed­ded sound tech­nol­ogy, en­abling its wear­ers to lis­ten to mu­sic or mes­sages with­out hav­ing to wield a hand­set. Nis­sim then turned his en­er­gies and skills into ad­vis­ing oth­ers in busi­ness, de­ploy­ing the hard-won knowl­edge that he had ac­cu­mu­lated over 30 years. He suc­cess­fully es­tab­lished the first Ayr­shire Busi­ness Fo­rum, to bring to­gether busi­ness own­ers to share their knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence.

The im­pact that Nis­sim had on his clients, is best summed up in this trib­ute from one Ayr­shire en­tre­pre­neur: “He chal­lenged us to do more with our busi­nesses and used his ex­ten­sive net­work to help us see the world be­yond Ayr­shire and to help each other with­out re­ward.”

To­gether with Elie, Nis­sim Chilton was a staunch mem­ber and sup­porter of the En­tre­pre­neur­ial Ex­change, the self-help or­gan­i­sa­tion for over 400 Scot­tish owner-man­agers. A man of great in­tegrity, Nis­sim Chilton be­lieved in do­ing busi­ness the old-fash­ioned way, seal­ing deals with a hand­shake rather than a team of lawyers.He worked doggedly through his can­cer treat­ment. The week be­fore his fa­tal heart at­tack, he had passed his an­nual med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion.

Nis­sim and his wife Eileen had three chil­dren: twin daugh­ters Elana and Ka­rina and son Jonathan. Nis­sim and Eileen sep­a­rated over a decade ago and in 2005 Suzanne Freed­man be­came his life part­ner.

He is sur­vived by Eileen, his chil­dren and Suzanne.

Chilton: busi­ness ex­per­tise

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