Donald Law

Donald Law

Donald Law

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DONALD Law, who has died in his 70s (he kept his exact age to himself), joined what was to become the Yorkshire Enterprise Group at the beginning of 1985.

The organisation had been launched 18 months earlier as a local authority initiative to provide risk capital to small firms in the West Yorkshire area.

His understanding of the pressures faced by the operators of small companies, his skill in managing what could be fraught business relationships and his direct, no-nonsense approach to solving problems made him an effective investment manager and won him many friends in the Yorkshire business community.

In 1987, he was appointed the company’s investment director and in 1988 he took over as its managing director.

With two older sisters, Mr Law was born in Brampton Bierlow, South Yorkshire. Their mother, Elizabeth, was a teacher and their father, George, an administrator at Cortonwood colliery.

He won a much sought after place at Wath Grammar School where he excelled in maths and sciences, and from there went to Leeds University. There he took physics and chemistry. Obliged to do a language, he chose Russian and Latin, later explaining: “I picked the most challenging ones I could think of.”

While still a student he married his long-time girlfriend Barbara Taylor, keeping financially afloat by working nights in a hospital mortuary. Studying Russian brought him to the attention of MI6 but he turned down its overtures because his wife was expecting a child, so his night shifts continued.

His first job after graduating was at Ultrasonics in Pudsey, a job that entailed many visits to America and elsewhere around the world. An irrepressible inventor, he had many patents to his name, one of them for the Everglow domestic fire which burnt anthracite and was cheaper and more efficient than a normal coal fire, and another for cleaning industrial equipment with ultrasound.

In St Helens, he set up one of the first plastic recycling/reclamation plants which unfortunately broke down at the official opening, he and his wife quickly improvising to make it look as though it was working.

At 32, Mr Law was made managing director of Barraclough’s roller shutter factory in Nelson, but after it was bought by Tarmac he was set the task of rationalising the group. Finding it a depressing job, he resigned and returned to university to do an MBA.

Discovering the course had nothing new to teach him, he left after three weeks, but would later earn the degree from home while working full-time. He had also been offered a dream job with the forerunner of the Yorkshire Enterprise Group.

Over 12 years, the small, Yorkshire-focused investment company with a decidedly uncertain future became a nationwide fund management business. With its headquarters in Leeds, it had main offices in London, Bristol and Manchester.

When Mr Law retired in 2000, the company had emerged as an important player in the UK’s venture capital trust market.

He continued to work part-time for several years after his retirement, helping a number of the companies build up their operations. This hands-on work, solving the problems that owner-managers of small firms faced, was what he loved most of all.

Barbara, Mr Law’s wife of 50 years, died in 2012 and he is survived by their children Janine and Andy, three grandchildren, and his older sisters Judy and Pat.

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