Lord Laidlaw is a committed philanthropist, serial entrepreneur, and accomplished sportsman.
A graduate of Leeds University and Columbia Business School, Lord Laidlaw founded the Institute for International Research Ltd (IIR) which became the world’s largest conference and training company. He sold it in 2005 for $1.4bn to Informa Plc. He has since gone on to build a large property company and invest extensively in sustainable energy, including the Veja Mate Offshore Wind Farm where he was the majority owner. His most recent project is building a renewable power resource in Rwanda.
Lord Laidlaw was one of the very earliest business leaders to see diversity in his management team as an important strength. His leadership team had a majority of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Lord Laidlaw believes passionately that performance should be rewarded and was a pioneer in sharing profits with his employees.
A committed internationalist, he considers it vital for the next generation of leaders to have and understand global connections. His generous philanthropy, funding academies and scholarships, centres on two core beliefs; firstly that inspirational education can break the cycle of poverty, and secondly the need for a new generation of diverse, passionate and adaptive leaders with a world view. The Women in Business movement that Lord Laidlaw funds, both helps to build a more diverse future leadership and pays tribute to the many women who helped make IIR so successful.
Born in Keith, Scotland on 22.12.42. Father, grandfather and great-grandfather were founders and owners of a Scottish woollen manufacturing mill.
Married to Christine, no children. Nationality – British.
- Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh
- University of Leeds, BA (Hons.) in Economics
- Columbia University, New York, MBA
- St Andrews University, Honorary LLD
- Aberdeen University, Honorary DHC
Lord Laidlaw was the founder of the Institute for International Research Ltd. IIR was sold to T&F Informa in July 2005, providing the transformative platform to grow Informa Plc. into the leading FTSE 100 media business it is today.
IIR was one of the world’s largest conference, training and exhibition companies with operations in 35 countries. IIR created and ran over 4,000 conferences every year, including many large-scale association style events (LSEs). The best practice blue print for LSEs, came to underpin the growth of the B2B event industry including UBM, Emap (now Ascential) and Informa. Virtually all the conferences were owned, marketed and operated by IIR.
IIR also had a number of divisions creating and running business to business exhibitions, with major trade shows in the USA, Europe, UK, the Middle and Far East.
IIR employed approximately 3,500 people at the time of sale in 2005 to Informa PLC for $1.4 billion. Lord Laidlaw’s business philosophy was based on hiring ambitious, brilliant, committed and often inexperienced staff, and then giving them the skills, incentives and opportunity to excel. He paid generously, giving all staff the chance to share in the profits they generated. His leadership team was noticeably diverse, with a majority of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Prior to founding IIR in 1974, Lord Laidlaw worked for Doubleday & Co. in both New York and London.
A committed internationalist, Lord Laidlaw has lived in the UK, USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, The Netherlands, Canada, France and Monaco. He has extensive experience in international business and cultures, and retains wide relationships around the world.
Since selling IIR, Lord Laidlaw has built a large UK property company, Laidlaw Estates Ltd. The company invests in and builds large residential and commercial developments in UK and Spain.
His holding company, HGHL, owned 55% of Veja Mate and 100% of Deutsche Bucht, Wind Farm developments in the German area of the North Sea. Veja Mate was a €2 billion development. Together with partners Siemens and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, this has been completed, and is now producing power to the German grid. It was sold in December 2018. Deutsche Bucht was sold to NPI in 2017.
HGHL through its subsidiary, Highland Power, is building a renewable power resource in Rwanda using methane brought up from the bottom of Lake Kivu. The first phase of 56 MW will be completed in early 2021, with the second phase of 50 MW in 2022. Highland Power is the sole owner of this project.
With the support of the Scottish Executive and the First Minister, Lord Laidlaw formed the Laidlaw Youth Project in 2004. This foundation made grants to charities in Scotland that help disadvantaged young people. It provided grants of £3,000,000 to 65 charities in 2008/9.
In 2004 Irvine Laidlaw agreed to be the sponsor of a new City Academy in Newcastle. This involved building a new school for 1800 students, designing a curriculum, and engaging the students and parents. This school is now part of the Laidlaw Schools Trust with two, soon to be three secondary schools, five primaries and five nursery schools, serving over c.5000 young people.
The Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership programme works in 12 Universities (Leeds, St Andrews, UCL, Hong Kong, Durham, York, Columbia College, Trinity College Dublin, Tufts, Hong Kong, Singapore, Rwanda) to provide scholarships in a programme to encourage future leaders.
In 2015 the Laidlaw Library opened at Leeds University. This is the first major library built for the University since 1930. A second study building, the Student Hub, is being designed by award winning architects, O’Donnell and Tuomey. The building will be the focal point for student enterprise and innovation activity on the Leeds University campus. It will also provide a range of key facilities, including space for study and social learning, educational outreach activity, and support for employability, careers and skills development.
A new building at St Andrews University is being constructed, to be known as the Laidlaw Music Centre.
Irvine Laidlaw was involved in Conservative politics for 20 years, initially through support for the Party in Westminster. In 1996 he became the major financial supporter of the Party in Scotland when the first elections were held for the first Scottish Parliament.
In 2004 he was created a Life Baron and entered the House of Lords as The Rt Hon The Lord Laidlaw of Rothiemay. He resigned from the House in 2010.
Irvine Laidlaw’s hobbies include sail boat racing, where he has been active at the Grand Prix level for nearly 30 years. His racing activities have included:
- Admiral’s Cup owner for Hong Kong and as Team Captain for Singapore (1981 and 1985);
- Southern Cross Cup for Hong Kong and Britain (1983, 1985 and 1987);
- Swan World Champion (1994);
- Key West Race Week overall winner (1993 and 1999).