Following a rigorous recruitment process, the new Chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was formally announced today (Thursday 10 January).
James Muir, former Head of Group National Sales at Volkswagen, and Chair of Trustees at the Astrea Academy Trust, has been recruited to the position.
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, headed the interview panel. He said: “This role is a crucial one and in James we have an outstanding candidate for the job. I look forward to working closely with James and fellow LEP board members to drive economic growth, create new jobs and promote our region around the world.
“This is an exciting time for the Sheffield City Region, as we start to grow our Global Innovation Corridor, transform our transport network and attract new investment from companies worldwide.
“With James’s business expertise, passion for our region and his dedication to social mobility, I’m confident he will provide strong leadership to the LEP, be the voice of our businesses and represent the Sheffield City Region on a Northern, national and international level.”
The LEP Chair is responsible for representing private-sector businesses and setting the strategic direction for the economic growth of the Sheffield City Region.
James is set to chair his first meeting of the LEP on Monday 14 January.
He said: “I’m very excited to have been appointed to this important role, and to build on the strong legacy that Sir Nigel has left behind.
“Using my business acumen and experience of spearheading businesses across more than 25 markets around the world, I believe I can support our local companies to develop and expand their potential across the globe.
“As a resident of Sheffield, with strong connections to the wider region, I want to do my utmost to create a vibrant economic powerhouse at the forefront of technological change.”
James graduated from Manchester University with a degree in German, followed by a postgraduate diploma in marketing and languages.
In 1983 he joined a manufacturer of tableware, spending his first year working full time in the factory, after which he was posted to set up the company’s sales and distribution subsidiary in the German market.
Three years later he joined Ford Motor Company and held various sales and marketing positions, including Sales Director of Ford Switzerland, and Regional Director for the North of England.
In 2001 he was appointed Managing Director responsible for establishing Mazda’s own company in the UK; in 2003 he was promoted to Mazda’s European headquarters near Cologne, first as Vice-President of Sales & Marketing and then as President and CEO of Mazda Europe where he led the Company’s turnaround from loss-maker to Mazda Corporation’s most profitable business unit in the world.
In 2009 James joined Volkswagen Group as President & CEO of SEAT based in Barcelona and tasked with revitalising its ailing brand. Over the following four years he led the complete restructuring of the company including the development of a new brand and product strategy.
Since mid-2013 James was based in Wolfsburg, Germany, responsible for running the VW Group’s owned national sales companies across more than 20 countries world-wide, accounting for more than 4 million vehicle sales with over €80 billion of turnover.
In December 2018 James retired from VW Group. He is the Chair of the Astrea Academy Trust Board, one of England’s largest multi academy trusts managing 28 primary and secondary schools located across South Yorkshire and North Cambridgeshire.
He is married and has three children. James speaks four languages, is a keen skier, rugby enthusiast and has a passion for business, economics, change management and social mobility.
Beckie Hart, Regional Director of the CBI, said: “James’ appointment is great news for the LEP, for businesses, and for all those committed to driving economic growth across the Sheffield City Region.
“With his knowledge and expertise gained through a successful career in the automotive sector, teamed with his dedication to our region, James is perfectly placed to lead the Board, bring in investment and position Sheffield City Region on the world stage.
“I look forward to working with him as he gets this important work underway.”
Sir Nigel Knowles, the previous LEP board chair, announced his decision earlier this year to step down when his term of office came to an end in December 2018.
Sir Nigel will now take on a role as special advisor to the Mayor on trade and investment, and continue to represent Sheffield City Region at events such as the annual MIPIM property conference in Cannes.