Chemicals retirements – they’re not what they used to be


To Holland Park today for a delightful business lunch with an industry friend who is in the process of retiring from the biz at the age of 60. Like so many retiring eminent statesmen before him, my pal has already had a grand farewell bash, at the Adlon Kempinski in Berlin at last year’s EPCA, but is now doing a stately tour of old friends and good restaurants.

As the conversation turns to other elaborate retirement send-offs, I recall celebrity retirees from ICIS: Brian Shelley, former MD, who took the whole ICIS staff to a lunch in a private dining room at Le Gavroche; and Pam, former global editorial director, who had colleagues and contacts to a dinner at Caraffini in Chelsea.

Then ratcheting up the spend by a notch or two, there was Rien’s retirement from SABIC – around 100 people to a castle in Holland, tables laden with gifts; John B’s retirement from Conoco – a long evening of cocktails at a hotel in Knightsbridge plus various golf outings; Peter B’s final departure from SABIC US with 200 people in a Houston ballroom.

And these parties weren’t just a goodbye, but a flamboyant way for the companies to tell the industry that they were still around, and appreciating their customers.

These guys were leaving at a good time. When you see them around now they are tanned and fit, enjoying their retirement. Look at John Keeley, still chairing ICIS conferences 8 years past his Shell Chemicals sell-by date.

But what will happen to the rest of us? Will there be any cash left in the business to celebrate our departure, or shall we just slip quietly away? Or shall we say, like Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night,” and make sure we go out on a high note and at a time of our own choosing?

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