Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge (16 November 1933 – 5 July 2012) is credited alongside Lord King of Wartnaby for the rescue and rebirth of troubled British Airways in the 1980s.
Colin was born in north London, where his father worked for a small car-hire business. He won a scholarship to University College School in Hampstead, and at 17 signed up as a cadet purser on the Orient Line of cruise ships. Colin moved to the US in the late 1950s, where he worked for Hertz as a management trainee. He successfully expanded the business in Canada and Mexico, before returning to the UK where he was poached by Avis in 1964. With the “We try harder” slogan, he assisted Avis in breaking Hertz’s lead in Europe, and was rewarded with a recall to the US in 1971 where he was appointed Chief Operating Officer, later becoming Chief Executive — a then rare feat to be a British CEO in a US company.
Colin was retained as Executive Vice President when Avis was taken over by the Norton Simon conglomerate, then returned to the UK 18 months later as Chief Executive of Sears. It was in this role that he was headhunted in 1983 to work at British Airways with Lord King. As Chief Executive under King’s direction, Colin oversaw a change in the branding philosophy and customer service, turning a £140m loss in 1981 into a profit of £434m by 1992, and serving as BA Chairman from 1992–1993 after Lord King’s departure from the role.
Colin was knighted in 1987 and made a life peer in 1998. His reputation garnered him many directorships, while he also served as Chairman of the British Tourist Board, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, VisitBritain and London First.
He was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 1996.