Harvard Engineering founder steps down as boss of company

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The founder of Harvard Engineering has spoken out following his departure from the private equity-backed firm.

John McDonnell has stepped down as chief executive but remains a shareholder in the Normanton-based lighting specialist.

Harvard is a world leader in the design, development and manufacture of energy-saving lighting solutions and has won multiple awards.

Private equity firm ECI Partners won the race to acquire a minority stake in the £26m-turnover company in a hotly contested sale process in 2013.

Earlier this week, Harvard announced the appointment of a new chief executive. The announcement made no mention of Mr McDonnell or his departure.

In a statement, he said: “I am very proud to have started Harvard from nothing and built it over 21 years to a strong business employing over 400 people.

“It is a leader in its market, with an innovative product range and some great people.

“It was my intention from the outset to sell the business and have a new, if you like, second life after Harvard, and I achieved the first step toward this in 2013 when I sold a significant share to private equity investor ECI.

“My ambition achieved; to de-risk my personal position and to bring in investors to take the business on through its next phases.

“My ‘second life’ started several months ago when I left Harvard. I have formed Illuminating Investments with my brother Michael, which is currently involved in developing several industrial, residential and retail properties in Leeds, Wakefield and Huddersfield.

“I am also extremely pleased to have more time to devote to helping other growing businesses via Connect Gazelles, where I’m honoured to be an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ and where I am able to learn from and about other growing businesses, and hopefully pass on some of my experience.

“I am still a shareholder in Harvard and wish the company and its new management team every success.”

Mr Hussey, the new CEO, joins Harvard from Strix Ltd, where he led the private equity-backed company to become a global leader in the design, manufacture and sale of safety control systems for small domestic appliances and filtration systems.

Prior to Strix, which is based in the Isle of Man, he held senior executive positions at a number of global brands including Danaher Corp, Honeywell and Allied Signal and has extensive experience of successfully growing businesses across international markets.

In a statement, Mr Hussey said: “I am excited to be joining Harvard Engineering at this time.

“Considering the global market trends towards environmentally conscious and energy-saving solutions, combined with Harvard’s market leading technology in the lighting space, this offers a unique growth opportunity that benefits both the company and our customers, a true win-win scenario.

“I look forward to expanding Harvard Engineering’s presence in new markets, building on the growth trajectory strategy already in place.”

Products include the LeafNut outdoors lighting system.