BRILLIANT, ruthless and fiercely outspoken - attributes of a very determined Yorkshireman.
Lord Hanson's domination of the corporate world epitomised the capitalist excesses of the Thatcher years. A favourite of the former Prime Minister - and an enthusiastic contributor to her party - the Huddersfield-born peer was one of the most feared asset-strippers on either side of the Atlantic.
But the man who pioneered the UK conglomerate was once equally renowned for his involvement with a rather more glamorous leading lady - he was briefly engaged to Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn before marrying US divorcee Geraldine Kaelin in 1959.
One of the first British businessmen to earn more than £1m a year, he was dubbed "Lord Moneybags" by one national newspaper and described as "Europe's most potent capitalist" by another.
James Hanson was born in 1922, the son of a wealthy businessman from Edgerton, Huddersfield. He joined a family which had been in the transport business since the early 19th century.
His great-great-grandmother had hired out packhorses to carry textile goods across the bleak Pennines. And the firm still has its headquarters in Huddersfield.
With his brother Bill, he launched a transport business in Canada and later formed Jet Petroleum, sold to Conoco in the 1950s for £12.5m.
He set up Hanson in 1964 with his close friend and ally Lord Gordon White and from modest beginnings quickly expanded it thanks to a simple philosophy of buying cheap, unglamorous companies and improving performance by sacking managers and cutting costs.
Over 30 years the two men built Hanson plc into a £10bn multi- national conglomerate employing 90,000 people, on an acquisition spree which saw its business grow to cover everything from bricks to batteries. Their reputation as "corporate raiders" spelled consternation in boardrooms across Britain and the US and in the 1980s the name Hanson was a byword for all that was go-getting in British business.
It engaged in one of the most vicious takeover battles, against Imperial Tobacco in 1986, which, with the takeover of US company SCM, was one of its greatest acquisitions. But when the unwieldy giant fell out of favour with investors in 1996 Lord Hanson, whose personal fortune was estimated at £100m, decided to split it into four companies: Energy Group, Millennium Chemicals, Imperial Tobacco and Hanson plc.
The announcement was hailed as the end of an era characterised by Thatcherite excess and Lord Hanson retired the following year.
Lord Hanson, who was made a life peer in 1983, made money work hard and shareholders were richly rewarded. If you invested £100 in his company in 1964, by 1986 it was worth £70,000.
Pre-tax profits rose every year until 1992. Between 1985 and 1990 the yield enjoyed by shareholders was estimated at £2.7bn.
But the recession of the early 1990s caused growing numbers to question the effectiveness of their philosophy. Institutional investors began suspecting that Hanson had had its day after its botched bid for ICI in 1991. The death of Lord White, in August 1995 may have convinced him it was time to start relinquishing control.
But he did not sink from the media spotlight in his retirement. In 2000 he made front page news with an outburst against Government spinning on the euro currency. In interviews after the split in 1996, Lord Hanson predicted that the day of the conglomerate would return.
"What goes around comes around," he said. "If the right opportunity arose, I am sure I could pull together a group of people because it is still the same old game."
Quality was always important to Lord Hanson. Beautiful works of art decorated his 9th floor penthouse close to London's Hyde Park, with spectacular 360° views over the capital in the sun.
And he always extolled the qualities of people from his home town.
"The skills of Huddersfield work people go back to the origins of the cloth trade," he said. "We had plentiful soft water to prepare the wool, but cloth manufacturing required the highest quality workmanship which, I believe, in turn developed high standards for the area."
He was a governor of Sadler's Wells, home of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, for many years and also championed Huddersfield Choral Society. And he relished his frequent returns to his home town.