Obituary: Geoff Baker, businessman
Geoff Baker who has died at 86, was the founder and chairman of CD(UK) Limited, a West Yorkshire company that introduced the UK to DuPont’s Corian – a solid surface material used for worktops.
Always at pains to emphasise that he did not invent the product but merely distributed it amongst other building supplies, his modesty tended to gloss over the fact that he was a skilled and innovative marketeer who made a wide contribution to the world of interiors, especially the creation of high quality kitchens and bathrooms.
Originally a plumber’s merchant, running Taylor Baker with his uncle, he set out to capitalise upon the demand for stainless steel sinks, which were very expensive in Britain at the time. He went to Sweden, where he found a supplier who could deliver similar products at a fraction of the cost. Ignoring his uncle’s warning that he would bring down the business with such a deal, he bought 50,000 of them. They sold well, the business thrived, and Mr Baker was soon back in Europe, where he found a manufacturer of pressed steel baths in Austria which undercut those back home.
It was in 1976, on a business trip to Hong Kong in search of a product that could be used to create an integrated basin for bathroom vanity units, that he learned of the American surface material Corian. Three years later, CDUK, the company he founded in Leeds, had become one of the world’s largest purchasers of the product, and Mr Baker managed to establish it in France, too.
He and his long-time business partner, Toni Hibbert, learned how to target specific market segments, and business boomed as it sold to architects, the leisure sector and healthcare providers. Their winning of a DuPont competition against the rest of Europe for the right to run a TV advertising campaign in the 1990s, established the brand as a market leader amongst retailers, restaurants and kitchen designers.
Mr Baker never lost his passion for business, and was in his 70s when he created a new line of designer cooker hoods, whilst also maintaining oversight of the Corian division.
“You either sell cheaply, or you sell top of the range – you can’t sell both,” he said. “When you sell cheap products, you’re selling based on price and discounts. You’re not selling the product.”
He is survived by his wife, Ruth, and three children, Warren, Debbie and Gary. His youngest, Gary is now group managing director of the company, having joined the business in 2006.