Neil Donaldson bows out after 45 years at family firm

29 July 2020

Neil Donaldson has announced his retirement from James Donaldson & Sons, after 45 years with the business, as he hands over the reins to the sixth generation.

He joined Donaldson’s in 1975, after graduating from Heriot-Watt University with an MSc in Business Studies. He grew up spending his school holidays working for the family business, but his first official role was as a sawmiller, before moving into sales in the late 1970s. He took over from his father as managing director in 1985.

During his tenure, Mr Donaldson has overseen the expansion of Donaldson’s from a small business in Fife, Scotland, to a national company, operating from 31 sites across the UK. Developments and strategic acquisitions in that time include: the creation of Donaldson Timber Engineering (DTE), which now has nine branches; timber merchant MGM Timber, which has 14 branches; expanding James Donaldson Timber and moving into MDF with the purchase of Palgrave Brown; insulation product manufacturer, Nu Style; Cambridge Roof Truss; and most recently, doorset and bespoke joinery specialist, Rowan Manufacturing and kitchen manufacturer, Smith & Frater.

Very well-known in the industry, Mr Donaldson is a passionate supporter of timber, and in 1988 he became the first Scottish chairman of TRADA. He was also president of the Scottish Timber Trade Association from 2004 - 2006 and president of the Timber Trade Federation from 2006 – 2008.

He is retiring on 31 July 31 and is succeeded by his son and deputy chairman, Michael Donaldson who will co-lead and co-manage the business with his brother, Andrew Donaldson, who took over as chief executive Officer in April this year.

“I have been extremely fortunate to have spent my career working with something I love, making a product that I love, in a business where I have been able to develop it into what I think it should be,” said Mr Donaldson. “I always wanted to work for the family business – I have wood in my DNA – and I think I can say that I’ve made the most of my time here! I always said that I hoped to retire at 65, in our 160th year of business, and the time is definitely right to pass the business on to the next generation.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve done with the business over the last 45 years – and indeed over the last 160 – and I’m happy to be going out on a high. To have both Mike and Andy taking over is the ideal scenario and I’m excited to see where they take it next. Meanwhile, I’ll be golfing, fishing and spending more time with my wife, Val, who has been an incredible support to me throughout my career.”

Along with his roles in the timber industry, Mr Donaldson is former chairman of Scotland’s leading spa hotel resort, Crieff Hydro; is a former chairman of Securities Trust Scotland; and is the current chairman of Baillie Gifford’s Shin Nippon in Japan.

The James Donaldson Group comprises seven subsidiaries, trading from 31 sites throughout the UK, with over 1,000 employees and a turnover of circa £225m. The business has been operating in Fife for 160 years.

Neil Donaldson is retiring after 45 years with the family business