In the years of John Macnaughtan’s career the international bicycle business saw the change from a European centered industry to a near all-out production relocation to Asia, the US-lead domination in the MTB market and the early start of the e-bike. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know the background and history on why the industry works as it does today.
Foreign office or bicycles?
Born in Burma and the combination with an international business career made that John Macnaughtan always lived in both worlds. This was also the idea behind the title of his memoirs: ‘Jungle-Wallah to international businessman’ although John Macnaughtan spent only a part of his youth in Burma.
After his study in England he applied for a job at the Foreign Office, but was not selected and he got a traineeship at Tube Investments (T.I.), who at that time owned a wide variety of companies, including Raleigh. By the time he found out this was not the right place to be, he was sent to South Africa in 1967 as representative of Raleigh’s Export Department. It was the start of a remarkable career which made him the troubleshooter of Raleigh International.
After the successful completion of putting up several subsidiaries he joined the newly formed Sturmey Archer Ltd in Nottingham in 1977 and became Sales and Marketing Director in 1981. “I realized how important their components were in this industry. In the end the bike is just a coat hanger for all components. Don’t forget, the Sturmey-Archer business was much more versatile and in the center of the industry, despite Raleigh’s dominant position. In my Sturmey-Archer days I have visited almost every bicycle factory in Europe and North America,” he said in an interview after his retirement.
Inside the industry
Sturmey-Archer also gave him the best possible inside information in the industry. “The late ‘70s were the last gasp of the old bike industry. The famous Mailliard derailleur gear ceased production and the Huret family sold out to Fichtel and Sachs in Germany. Imports of cheap Far East goods made local production unviable,” writes Macnaughtan.
Also for Sturmey-Archer production relocation seemed inevitable in the ‘90s but John Macnaughtan is remarkable open on want happened: “My company was sold in 1997 to an American investor and then to a bunch on near-crooks. Soon after Sturmey-Archer went into liquidation and was sold to Sun Race in Taiwan for a pittance.” Incensed on what happened he bought Brooks saddle, which was part of Sturmey-Archer, which he sold to Selle Royal two years later.
Back again at Raleigh
After that sale John Macnaughtan established Raleigh in the China market before taking on the job with Raleigh International Limited where he was appointed Managing Director. In the 14 years he has held this position he returned double digit growth year on year with Raleigh’s successful licensee model. Between 2002 and 2012 he increased the number of markets based on this model from 10 to 45.
In this easy to read book John Macnaughtan takes you through a series of very incredible events North, South, East, West and Central Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Australia, China, the USA which made the bicycle industry for him and many others an exciting place to be.
Jungle-Wallah to International Businessman: A Memoir
Author: John Macnaughtan
Publisher: Red Juice Press