Gimme Five – Michael LeGoff

LeGoff took a physics degree at Royal Roads University and an MBA is strategic studies at Athabasca University in the 1980s; both are in Canada. He started, but never completed, a doctoral programme in business leadership at Cranfield University.

In 1995, he founded Dynex Power, growing the company in five years to 350 employees and £30m turnover. It was ranked one of the top 50 fastest growing technology companies in North America for three consecutive years be Deloitte & Touche. After ten years in charge of Dynex, he sold his interest and joined Zarlink Semiconductor, which was acquired by MHS Industries, working from the old Plessey site in Swindon. When that company collapsed, he was involved in a management buyout and also bought back the old Plessey site in Plymouth. The company changed its name to Plessey Semiconductors in 2010.

He is keen on sport, particularly rugby, and keeping fit.

1. Why was Dynex able to grow so quickly?

We were part of a rising tide that was lifting all the ships quickly. We had phenomenal growth on the back of the telecoms growth. We were designing and making power semiconductors. We were buying substrates and other products from GEC-Plessey and had an assembly facility in Canada. GEC-Plessey was then bought by Mitel and that included the Lincoln facility that was supplying us, so we bought that from Mitel so we could continue.

Our products were going into the high-speed rail and high-voltage transmission systems and motor drives as well as telecoms power systems. The telecoms market then stalled in 2001 and the entire semiconductor industry had the single largest drop in the history of our sector. We survived that and came out the other end.

2. The rebirth of Plessey was tied up with the collapse of MHS. What went wrong there?

There is an administrators’ report on that so I wouldn’t want to comment too much on it. In my analysis, MHS was trying to use the Swindon facility as a foundry and all the value in Swindon was built around a process facility that let them build unique products. This small facility in Swindon was not going to be able to compete with the large foundries in the Far East, and that is why their foundry model for Swindon was doomed to failure.

3. Why didn’t you complete your doctoral programme in business leadership at Cranfield University?

Plessey got in the way. I wanted to try to acquire the assets from Zarlink in August 2005. I started work on that project and couldn’t spend the time on the research. I’d done my course work but couldn’t spend a year and a half doing the research for my thesis. I think I did the work by doing what I did with Plessey. Maybe I should write back to them and say I feel I have done the practical element.

4. Being keen on fitness, you sound like you keep a healthy lifestyle, but what is the most unhealthy thing you do?

Friday evenings are gin-martinis with olives. You can’t get these at the pub, so I have my shaker at home. I also smoke cigars once or twice a month if my wife will let me. I normally sneak one when I walk the dog.

5. Plymouth is seen as being a bit out of the way. How difficult is it to attract good staff to work in that part of the country?

We have the design and research centre in Swindon, and that covers the M4 corridor. We have about 20 people there. Plessey built the Plymouth facility in the 1980s and there are still people who moved down here then and we picked up some of them and other designers in the area. For new hiring, it is difficult. But for finance, sales and marketing, and HR, they can work out of Swindon. For technical staff, Devon is quite a nice place to live. We do get applications from people who are looking for a change and want to move down here. So it shouldn’t be too hard as we grow.

Finding good people to work in the factory is also not too difficult in the current climate.

Plessey Semiconductors

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