Profile: William Harris, the Britt Allcroft Company

The Britt Allcroft Company’s new managing director is chartered accountant William Harris. After a dozen years with the media group behind Rev W Awdry’s classic children’s character Thomas the Tank Engine, Harris has realised every boy’s dream of being ‘a train driver’.

Having qualified with Price Waterhouse, Harris joined Britt Allcroft in 1986 as manager of finance and administration, and became finance director in 1988.

Harris stresses the difference between the business work environment and the creative nature of Britt Allcroft, which has allowed him ‘to achieve one of my greatest ambitions since leaving the profession by taking the company public.’ Its high-profile flotation in November 1996 signalled the implementation of a management succession plan to prepare for the retirement of co-founder Angus Wright, and the handover to Harris. ‘Although the process has been going on for some months, the Christmas break has meant I have just begun.’

Already a key figure in establishing the company’s overseas status, Harris sees worldwide expansion as essential. ‘We have been working in North America since 1988 and two major licensing deals with the Fox Family Channel will see the August launch of Shining Time Station and Magic Adventures of Mumfie across the US.’ Harris aims to develop and strengthen the existing characters with a mix of new productions and merchandising. ‘Thomas is still very important to us’, says Harris of the recent launch in Germany and Scandinavia. ‘We plan to launch Mumfie internationally in the autumn and will be making an all-new production of Captain Pugwash.’

Wright continues as deputy chairman to provide continuity: ‘I am enjoying handing over to Tim, and really getting on with it.’

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