Group Executive Management
Peter Gray, Chairman and CEO
In 1991 having previously worked for Lovell Construction as one of its youngest site managers, Peter set up BMBC a global book supply company with his brother James. From 1991 to 2001 Peter ran the operational management of the business including IT, customer services and operations in a period of significant growth. Also during this time a large number of acquisitions were undertaken including in 2000, BMBC's acquisition of John Coutts Library Services in both Canada and North America. Following this acquisition the Group was renamed as Coutts Information Services. Latterly in 2001 the Group acquired John Smith & Son, and the library supply assets were merged into Coutts with the campus retail business being run separately under the John Smith's brand.
Whilst retaining an interest in Coutts as a Non-Executive Director (a position he held until its sale to Ingram Industries Inc in 2006), Peter took on the role of Chairman and CEO of John Smith's and set a new strategic direction for the company.
At the time of acquisition, John Smith's had a retail turnover of £6m with all retail shops based in Scotland. The new drive for growth saw the Company quickly open a host of new stores in the UK and EIRE and also the placing of a significant investment in Botswana with the opening of a store and office premises at the University of Botswana. It is from here that the current International Division is based.
In 2004 Peter led the acquisition of Hammicks Legal, part of the Hammicks Bookshop Group with a strong and distinct brand in the provision of legal information around the world.
In 2006, Aztec Retail, the specialist retail software company was acquired, enabling the Group to put IT at the heart of its business development. In particular it has enabled the company to develop technologically robust models that have great synergy with the new funding frameworks in Higher Education.
Under Peter's leadership John Smith's has become one of the strongest growing companies in the market. Turnover has grown consistently and the company continues to re-invest in its markets and develop up-to-date business models with integrity and value, particularly in the Higher Education sector
Peter Lake, Group Business Development Director
Peter joined JS Group in 2011 having previously worked in a number of senior roles at Thomson Reuters. Peter was CEO of Sweet & Maxwell from 2003 to 2011 and was also responsible for Thomson Reuters legal businesses in Europe and Asia. As well as general management roles, Peter led the development of Westlaw online services in the UK, Germany and India and was responsible for the acquisition of software and information businesses in the UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Before joining Thomson Reuters, Peter had worked for Reed Elsevier and Pearson.
Alan Leitch, Executive Director
Alan has worked in the UK academic book trade for over 30 years and his career has included senior management roles in both bookselling and publishing sales, giving him a unique experience of the academic and specialist market and an extensive network of professional contacts.
Having started his career as a shop floor bookseller in London in 1980, Alan then spent nearly 10 years in publishing sales with Routledge, firstly as a sales representative and then as UK Sales Manager. He returned to bookselling in 1994 and his extensive retail experience includes 4 years as Managing Director of Blackwell's UK, where he was also responsible for the company's UK library supply and online operations.
After leaving Blackwell's, Alan became Divisional Director of Hammicks Local Bookshops prior to the sale of that business to Ottakar's in 2003 and then founded his own business, Compass Academic Ltd, providing independent sales representation and market management for academic and specialist publishers. He joined JS Group as Marketing Director in 2004 and was appointed Director of the JS Campus Division at the end of 2007.
David Marshall, Group Commercial Director
Having Graduated from Strathclyde University in Politics and Economic History, David briefly trained as a stockbroker before he succumbed to the call of the book trade. David has worked in the book trade now for 16 years, initially working with Borders; he worked his way up from a bookseller to General Manager of the flagship store in Glasgow. During this time, David was named as General Manager of the year for Borders Books in 2008.
David joined The John Smith & Son Group in 2010 as the Regional Sales and Operations Manager for Scotland and was promoted to the role of Director of Commercial and Strategic Development for the UK Business in 2012
In 2015 David was promoted to the role of Group Commercial Director and became involved with the Groups business in both the UK and Africa demonstrating an ability to create innovative solutions to drive profitability and develop talent as well as implementing organisational strategic plans.
The John Smith & Son Group has transformed its business over recent years as its markets have changed and evolved. David has been at the forefront of much of this change with his leadership playing a major role in developing the e-commerce channels, building and improving supplier relationships, extending the range of products offered and being the champion of The Group’s eBook strategy.
David was appointed to the Group Board in June 2016 as Group Commercial Director.
Sam Bursey, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer
Sam is a qualified Accountant and joined JS Group in 2015 bringing with him 18 years of experience gained from Deloitte and across multiple industries and fast-moving environments including Professional Services, Support Services, Education, Sport/Leisure, Digital and Retail.
He has an established track record of building and developing scalable top performing teams across a number of different functions and has a detailed understanding of Strategic and Operational finance.
Sam started his career in 1998 as a trainee Accountant at British Steel Plc before moving onto the Capita Group Plc, an International FTSE-100 business. During this time he was heavily involved driving bottom line profitability and working on the continued expansion of the company both organically and through acquisitive growth.
After 8 years Sam joined Deloitte’s Financial Advisory Consultancy division where he delivered a range of finance transformations and client projects in various geographical locations and was heavily involved with both business development and product development.
During this time he was also seconded to the London 2012 Olympic Games and was a member of the Senior Management Finance Team that won a special achievement award for the financial control of the budget set aside to deliver the Olympic and Paralympic Games by LOCOG.
Following relocation to the Dorset coast, Sam joined the senior management team at Lush Cosmetics and in relation to its online business had specific responsibility for the delivery of general operational management and the commercial, financial and digital strategy before leaving to join the JS Group.
Stuart Lindsay BSc FCA, Non Executive Director
Stuart Lindsay has been a Non Executive Director with JS Group since 2003. He is a Chartered Accountant whose career spans 30 years with Deloitte, 19 as a partner, and subsequently as an independent director/adviser.
He was a Corporate Finance Partner with Deloitte until 2003 and during his time with the firm established three successful businesses and was seconded to government for a year. Stuart has worked in most sectors, company sizes and stages of development and has experience of both public and private companies and in public, private equity and banking finance markets.
Since leaving Deloitte he has established his own consultancy business and acts as non-executive director or strategic advisor to a number of public and private companies.
Stuart offers strong analytical, diagnostic and financial management skills. As a Non Executive Director on the Board he offers a strategic perspective and has been able to draw on a strong track record.
James Gray, Non Executive Director
James Gray is CEO of Kortext, the UK’s leading digital textbook and learning platform and one of the UK’s fastest growing EdTech businesses.
Starting his career as a registered stock exchange trader, James worked in finance and IT sales and marketing until 1991 when he set up, along with his brother Peter, BMBC, a book supplier to libraries worldwide. From a standing start the company grew rapidly, culminating in its acquisition of John Coutts Library Services in North America in 2000 and of the John Smith and Son Group in 2001.
The businesses operated from key locations in USA, Canada, Europe and Southern Africa, trading with some 120 different countries around the world. In 2004 James founded MyiLibrary as part of the Coutts Group which has become one of the world's leading digital content platforms used by libraries worldwide. MyiLibrary is now used by millions of students throughout the world and has concluded landmark deals with key University groups and Government education departments across the globe.
In December 2006, under James's leadership, Coutts Information Services along with its eBook business MyiLibrary was divested from the John Smith & Son Group and was sold to Ingram Industries Inc. James took up the role of CEO and President of Ingram Digital Group in Nashville and led Ingram’s push to build a comprehensive digital offering for publishers, retailers, libraries and students.
The business set up and ran Amazon’s eBook store prior to their launch of Kindle and signed a land mark deal with Microsoft in 2007 to digitize content for Windows Live. The company also worked with Apple, Amazon, Sony, Barnes and Noble and other key players in supporting their eBook offerings. In 2009 James was appointed to the role of Chief Strategy Officer for all the Ingram Content Group Companies.
James left Ingram in January 2010 and built a portfolio of investments in technology led businesses through his investment vehicle, Verso Capital LLC, prior to formally taking over the leadership of Kortext.
Professor Michael Thorne, Strategic Advisor to the Board
Professor Michael Thorne recently retired as Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University having been a Vice Chancellor for almost 15 years. He began his university career as a lecturer at University College London followed by a decade at Cardiff University. After five years as Pro Vice Chancellor at Sunderland University and then Vice Principal at Napier University in Edinburgh he became Vice Chancellor of the University of East London. He has a first class honours degree in Pure Mathematics and a PhD in Computational Group Theory.
He is the author, co-author and editor of a large number of books and academic papers, and has contributed to many television and radio programmes as well as being in high demand as a speaker. He has held a variety of public appointments across Whitehall, including chairing the government’s Advisory Committee on Libraries and membership of the NHS Chief Executive’s Advisory Group on Innovation. He chaired the Parliamentary Skills Commission’s enquiry into Information, Advice and Guidance and was until his retirement a member of the Board of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.
He is a Trustee of the Sir John Cass Foundation in the City of London. In his spare time he conducts Wagner operas and other large scale musical works. He is a Freeman of the City of London and a member of the Musicians’ Livery Company.