New peers: Brady and Rose have strong opinions

Among the 22 new life peers announced on Friday, businesswoman and TV presenter Karren Brady and former M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose are two people tipped to make sure their voices are heard.

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Karren Brady does things differently. Breaking down stereotypes and taking on challenges have been the hallmarks of her career.

Her portfolio of jobs - past and present - stretch from football (first as managing director of Birmingham City, and now vice-chair at West Ham), TV presenting (The Apprentice), politics (as a Small Business Ambassador), and adult publishing.

She's had directorships at Channel Four and Mothercare, and now sits on the boards of Arcadia and Simon Cowell's music company Syco.

Her books include Strong Woman: The Truth About Getting to the Top where she details the gruelling workload and sexism she faced in her rise to the top of business.

The daughter of a millionaire owner of a printing company, she had a comfortable upbringing, with holidays in Barbados and attending good schools.

But she eschewed university as being "for the professions", and got a job at Saatchi & Saatchi advertising group. Ms Brady later joined the LBC radio company in London, securing a big advertising deal from David Sullivan, whose interests included the Daily and Sunday Sport newspapers.

He liked her attitude and tenacity, and, aged just 20, Ms Brady became a director at Sport Newspapers.

It was her suggestion that Mr Sullivan and his associates buy the then bankrupt Birmingham City football club for £700,000. Birmingham was eventually sold for £82m.

In a Financial Times interview Ms Brady recalls taking over as managing director at Birmingham in 1993. "David [Sullivan] did warn me that I would have to be twice as good as the men to be thought of as even half as good. I said 'well luckily that's not difficult'."

When she met the squad, one Birmingham player quipped about what he could see through her shirt. Unfazed, she told him that when she sells him to Crewe, he wouldn't be able to see from there. The player didn't last the season.


Aged 45, and married (to a former Birmingham footballer) with two children, Ms Brady has lamented that she took only three days' maternity leave following the birth of her daughter.

She told Hello! magazine: "That was shameful, really. It was a mistake and most people would look at it with shock, as they should. When you're young and in a career you don't realise it will last a lifetime. You think it will slip through your fingers if you take time out."

Her path to the top has not always been smooth. In 2008 she was arrested and questioned by City of London Police as part of an investigation into football corruption. She denied wrongdoing and no charges were brought.

A lifelong Conservative Party supporter, Ms Brady introduced George Osborne to the 2013 Tory summer conference. That's when speculation about her possible political ambitions moved up a gear.

She is now being tipped as a possible Conservative candidate to replace Boris Johnson as Mayor of London.

Ms Brady has brushed aside such thoughts. Yet, few people would be surprised if she decided to take on another high-profile challenge.

Sir Stuart Rose may have left Marks and Spencer three years ago, but his name is inextricably linked to the retailer.

Knighted in 2008 for "services to the retail industry", the 65-year old has been part of the industry for 42 years.

His childhood included living in a caravan in Warwickshire, moving to east Africa when his father took up a diplomatic post there, and then heading back to England and a Quaker boarding school.

And all this before the age of 13. No wonder that by the age of 18 he admitted to being a bit a lost.

After failing to get into medical school, he worked as a hospital lab technician and did a year at the BBC, all the while applying fruitlessly for jobs at various companies.

Eventually, in 1972, Sir Stuart, was accepted onto the M&S trainee management scheme. It would be the beginning of beautiful friendship.

In an interview with The Times, he recalls being able to remember in detail every branch he ever worked at.

His rapid rise through the ranks took him from Llandudno, North Wales and to M&S's first Paris shop, opposite Galeries Lafayette.

By 1988 he had risen to commercial director for Europe, gaining a reputation as a savvy and innovative executive. That put him on the radar screens at other retailers, and in 1989 Sir Stuart jumped ship to Ralph Halpern's Burton Group.

High Street battle

Surprisingly, for a man so associated with M&S, Sir Stuart regrets not leaving the retailer earlier.

"My big mistake was I stayed too long. I learnt all I was ever going to in about eight years, yet I stayed for 17," he told the Financial Times last year. "What stopped me moving was fear."

The Burton Group was to prove an eye opener. "Ralph Halpern taught me things I never knew about - I don't mean salacious things, I mean business things. I went through shutting shops, acquiring shops, rescue rights issues, I went through firing people," he said.

But, if he had regrets about staying too long at M&S, Burton provided the antidote. The demerger of Debenhams from Burton Group left Rose out in the cold.

There were jobs running Argos, Booker, and, in 2000, as chief executive of Arcadia Group. He left Arcadia following its takeover by Phillip [now Sir] Green.

Sir Stuart returned to M&S in 2004, and the two men where involved in a high-profile, sometimes personal battle, when Sir Philip bid for the retailer. There was a now-legendary episode when the two men squared up to each other in a high street.

Although Sir Stuart stressed that there were no blows, he told Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs that there was what he called "vigorous grasping of the lapels".

Having fought off the take over attempt, in more ways than one, Rose set about returning M&S to its past glory, passing the magical £1 billion pre-tax profit figure in 2008.

Sir Stuart's success made him a darling of the investment community, although a decision to merge the roles of chief executive and chairman struck many as a shade power mad.

Post M&S, he's had a lower profile, but has surfaced occasionally to reveal his strong independence of mind.

There was, for example, strong criticism in 2011 of moves to cut the top rate of tax. "How would I explain to my secretary that I am getting less tax on my income, which is palpably bigger than hers, when hers is now going down?'," he told the BBC.

His portfolio of jobs now includes a non-executive directorship at Ocado, the home delivery firm, and as adviser to 14 NHS hospitals that have been placed in special measures.

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