Chamber unveils its new boss after turbulent year

David Birrell settles in to his new surroundings
David Birrell settles in to his new surroundings
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A NEW man has been appointed to the top job at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce as it recovers from a turbulent year.

David Birrell, a chartered accountant and former Unilever executive, will take up the chief executive post in the first week of January, replacing Ron Hewitt, who left after more than six years at the helm.

Earlier this year, Edinburgh Business Development, a training and business growth subsidiary of the chamber, had to be rescued from the brink of collapse due to an unforeseen cash crisis.

The chamber had to provide a £700,000 bailout for the organisation after financial reports failed to show that a series of contracts for local, national and international public bodies would run up “substantial” losses.

The crisis resulted in the chamber having to make 12 of its 50 staff redundant and saw it record a £1 million-plus loss.

Despite the difficulties, it achieved the highest growth in new members of any chamber in the UK during 2011, and had the highest number of event participants in Scotland, with 4019 attendees.

Mr Birrell said he was keen to begin his new role. He said: “The chamber is a fantastic institution and Edinburgh is a fabulous city. It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to lead the organisation at such a critical time in our economic history.

“More than ever, we need support for businesses to be at the heart of our plan for recovery and growth in the Scottish economy, with the chamber movement at its heart.”

Mr Birrell spent his early career as an accountant with Scott Moncrieff before joining Unilever in 1985, where he worked in roles including vice president for global customer development and director of Birds Eye Wall’s.

In 2007, he became strategy director for the McCurrach Group, a field sales service provider.

Robert Carr, the president of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “The board and council of the chamber were unanimous in their endorsement of David as the right person for the job at this time.

“The chamber has faced a number of challenges and our city is facing a number of challenges. We are confident that David possesses the skills, experience, acumen and ambition to lead the chamber and its members into a new period of prosperity and growth.

“He brings with him a tremendous range of qualities and capabilities which will serve both the chamber and the city of Edinburgh well in the months and years to come.”