Published: October 29, 2019 | Updated: October 29, 2019
Dorset business giant known as Mr Jaguar prepares to roar off into retirement
A giant of the Dorset business and automotive world – known as Mr Jaguar for his passion for the brand – is roaring off into retirement.
Paul Collins, who admits he lives and breathes Jaguar, is to step down at the end of this week after a distinguished career stretching back 51 years.
The 66-year-old, who together with his wife Julia owns four Jaguars, said he felt the time had come after the successful integration of Westover with the Hendy Group.
“It’s the end of an era and, yes, I am sad to leave a job I love but it’s the right decision,” he said.
Among the people paying tribute to his long service is Paul Hendy, Hendy Group’s Chief Executive.
He told dorsetbiznews: “Paul Collins has been an integral part of the automotive and business world in Dorset for many years and is a hugely respected businessman.
“We have had the benefit of his vast experience during our acquisition of Westover and the integration of the two companies.
“We wish him a very long and happy retirement.”
Born and bred in Bournemouth, Mr Collins entered the motor trade as a 15-year-old junior with Henlys in Bournemouth Square.
Founded in 1917, the motor dealer was the UK main distributor for Jaguar and Daimler and his love affair with the brand, which has lasted more than half a century, began in earnest.
The father of two spent ten years with Henlys where he became infamous for selling Jaguars to the rich and famous, helped by the big celebrity names appearing in the Bournemouth summer shows.
“I sold Dick Emery three E-Types, Jim Davidson his first Range Rover and an E-type to Mick Jagger.
“In truth, we didn’t have to do a lot. Henlys was in the middle of the Square and the celebrities didn’t have the distractions there are now. It was an easy sell.”
After Henlys came South Coast dealer Wadham Stringer where Mr Collins was to oversee five Jaguar franchises. Latterly he became the company’s Sales Director for all premium brands.
Then, said Mr Collins, came one of his biggest breaks and a real career ‘high’. Peter Wood, the former Westover Chairman, approached him to set up a Jaguar franchise in Poole and the rest, as they say, is history.
As a main Board Director Mr Collins was among the driving forces behind Westover’s rise over the next 30 years to become one of Dorset’s largest independent companies with 18 franchises, 28 outlets and 700 staff across two counties.
Earlier this year the company was acquired by Hendy Group. “I’ve known Paul Hendy (Chief Executive) a long time and have a lot of admiration for him. It’s a new chapter and a good move for Hendy Group. They have my full support,” he said.
Mr Collins was also President of Dorset Chamber of Commerce & Industry in 2014, his term of office coinciding with the arrival of Ian Girling as Chief Executive.
“Ian has done a great job and really turned the chamber around. It was a good appointment,” said Mr Collins.
So what has fuelled his passion for Jaguar and what now for ‘Mr Jaguar’? “I just love the heritage and the people. There’s a pride in owning a Jaguar,” he said
As for the future, Mr Collins hopes to help the Jaguar Heritage Trust in the South West.
He’s also Vice Chairman of BH Live and a Board member of About Face, the Poole-based charity which provides support to patients who have been diagnosed, or are living with, head and neck cancer.
“Work always came first and I didn’t really see my children grow up but I’m proud of the way they’ve turned out. I have two grandchildren and I’m now looking forward to seeing them and the family,” said Mr Collins.
He added: “I’ve been married 46 years and Julia has been an absolute rock. I’ve enjoyed a fantastic career and while I’m sad to retire I leave with many happy memories and wonderful friendships.”