Scottish soft drinks giant AG Barr has announced that Robin Barr will step down from his role as non-executive director in May, bringing to end what must be one of the longest boardroom stints in corporate history.
The 85-year-old is the great-grandson of Robert Barr, who founded the company in 1878. He has been with the business for 62 years, 58 of them on the board, and became chairman in 1978.
It is unlikely Barr will have to watch his pennies in retirement. The company’s largest shareholder, his 15% stake is valued at nearly £90m.
He is one of only three people who know the Irn Bru recipe. The others are his daughter Julie and an unnamed member of the board. Rumour has it they never travel by plane together.
When he vacated the chairman’s seat to become a non-exec, Barr said he would still come in to mix the secret ingredients on a monthly basis.
Julie Barr, the current company secretary, will take his place on the board, subject to shareholder approval. With the business for the past 19 years, she will be the only Barr family member in the boardroom.
AG Barr CEO Roger White hailed Robin Barr as an “unsung hero” and “a true gentleman of the soft drinks industry” who had been “if not the public face of the brand, the power behind the brand”.
The news of his departure came as AG Barr reported a 5.2% rise in profit to £44.4m on the back of an 18% jump in annual revenues to £317.6m.
However, it warned of a “short-term impact on operating margins” as a result of inflation and acquisitions. The latest of these was the purchase of Leeds-based functional drinks brand Boost Drinks for £20m last December.