Thursday, March 31, 2016

Andy Thornton

Andy Thornton, who has died after a dogged battle with cancer, would have stood out in any organisation - a big, smiley man who got things done with common sense and humour. In the BBC of the last twenty-odd years, his were qualities in short supply.

He started off as a trainee with the Midland Bank in 1979, rising to new accounts manager in 1990. Then came a spell with EDS, before he returned to the old company with a new name, HSBC. He was a problem solver, sorting out credit card operations and relationships with major retailers.

He came to the BBC in 1997 to get more efficiency out of Consignia (The Post Office) in the way they collected the licence fee, through direct debits and more. He led the tender operation which ended up with Capita. In 2000, collection costs took 5.6% of the licence fee - last year it was 2.7%.

Other big projects included selling off BBC Resources Ltd, the outside broadcast operation, in 2008; driving new deals for the BBC archives, and sharpening up all sorts of procurement.

I worked with him on the Broadcasting House project. He nearly always had a property 'scheme' up his sleeve, and we enjoyed several strategic battles over shuffling World Service to W12 and selling off various W1 satellite buildings. He had a wisecrack ready at the start of every meeting, usually pointing to some daftness at a higher management level. Once we reached an understanding, things got sorted, as is best, before meetings. Once we became chums, things motored along nicely, and, for all the Programme Managers and Prince2 handbooks in the world, the final delivery of the new bits of Broadcasting House owed much more to Andy than the minutes will ever show.

A teenage bass-playing punk turned proud family man; a shrewd and thoughtful operator; someone who appreciated good cooking; and a valued companion, gone too soon.

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