Don Berrington was Managing Director of the Helicopter Division at Westland but at the height of the Westland Affair in the mid-1980's he was put-in charge of the whole company
One moment the company was struggling a little but the next minute it was in desperate straits. I knew something was very wrong when I had a call on a Sunday afternoon from Sir Basil Blackwell who was the Chief Executive, he was Chairman and Chief Executive, which probably wasn’t a sensible thing to do anyway and he said can you come to my house. I’d never been to his house, I didn‘t actually know where he lived other than that it was Sherborne but anyway he wanted me to come to his house that afternoon, so I went round there. I thought what on earth does he want and he was basically saying look, the company is in very, very serious trouble, the Board of Directors is totally in disarray and the shareholders are totally unhappy. We’ve got to do something different. Would you be prepared to be the Managing Director?
Well, I’d had no experience of the sort of wider aspect of management. I’d always been in the technical side, but I couldn’t say no, really, could I, so, I said well, you know, I have certain things that I do know. I know the company, I know the products and I know the customer. I don’t know the financial aspects at all. Anyway, it seemed that the company was in such a dire mess that the Board of Directors, both the main Board and the subsidiary Helicopter Board, they were either going to retire or resign or get sacked, and I’m the only remaining occupant, as it were. So, that’s how I became, for a very short period, the Managing Director of the whole organisation but very quickly they brought in Hugh Stuart as the Chief Executive and the company was divided up again and I became Managing Director of the helicopter company as opposed to the whole company and that was for a very short while so, you understand what I mean by default really. They couldn’t bring in an outside experienced Managing Director. No one’s going to take on a failing company that’s about to go bust and all the existing occupants of both boards were unacceptable other than I, who had had a reasonably good reputation and hadn’t actually been on the Board for more than five minutes anyway.
Sir John Cuckney was brought in as the Chairman of the holding company, Hugh Stuart as the Chief Executive of the helicopter company and we started to rebuild the whole thing.