The rugby international who turned business star

MULTI-TALENTED Sir Bill Gammell played international rugby for Scotland before employing his competitive skills in the business world.

The well-connected entrepreneur attended Fettes College in Edinburgh with former Prime Minister Tony Blair before moving on to the University of Stirling, where he obtained a BA in Economics and Accountancy.

Gammell’s talents also stretched to the sports pitch, where he played rugby union at both county level and for the Scottish national team.

A tall winger, he earned five international caps, with his career highlight coming against Japan in 1977 in Tokyo when he scored four tries to lead the Scots to a 74-9 victory.

After his rugby career was ended by injury, he went on to found Cairn in Edinburgh in 1980.

The company’s breakthrough came in 2004, when a field it had bought in 2001 from Shell in the Indian province of Rajasthan was found to contain close to 1.1bn barrels of oil, catapulting it into the FTSE 100.

In the 1990s, he shifted the focus of the company from the North Sea and the US and the Gulf of Mexico­ – Cairn USA effectively merged with a subsidiary of Texan company the Meridian Resource Corporation in 1997 – to South Asia, having spotted the opportunity to tap energy supplies in developing economies.

Gammell was paid an annual salary of £552,000 for his role as chief executive at Cairn, but his shareholding is worth millions.

On 1 July this year Gammell assumed the role of non-executive chairman.

The entrepreneurial spirit is in his blood: his father was an Edinburgh investment banker who set up the Ivory & Sime fund and, in the 1950s, put money into the US oil company Bush-Overbey.

That made the Gammell family friends with the Bush clan.

Former US President George W Bush reportedly took time out from the G8 summit at Gleneagles to meet up with Sir Bill, and the families holidayed together where close ties were made.

In 2004 he was awarded UK Entrepreneur of the Year. In the 2006 honours list, Gammell was knighted “for services to industry in Scotland”.