It’s with great sadness, and with permission of John’s family, that we announce the passing of John Douglas Westwood, the founder of Douglas-Westwood, now part of Westwood Global Energy Group.
Westwood’s previous Head of Oilfield Services, Steve Robertson provides a fitting eulogy.
John Douglas Westwood 1945-2022
“John very sadly passed on the evening of the 5th January 2022, peacefully and with his three sons, Adam, Craig and Rod, at his side. With the permission of his family, I would like to share some thoughts and memories of this remarkable man.
John grew up in what he always referred to as the ‘Black Country’ (a term which used to perplex our international clients until it was explained it was an area of the West Midlands in the UK.) I didn’t think John had a particularly strong accent but at meeting with an engineering firm a client tried to guess where John grew up based on his accent and got within less than half a mile of the correct location. He was the son of a butcher and for many years was a staunch vegetarian (on the basis that he “didn’t like eating poor quality meat”) and an avid supporter of animal welfare charities such as the League Against Cruel Sports. If he was recalling an encounter with a famous business person (what he would term “the great and the good”) there was an odds-on chance it was from a charity event on the terrace at Westminster, London, if it wasn’t through one of his business ventures.
John was described multiple times as a “serial entrepreneur” and he was a very successful one at that. Following an early interest in electronics he found himself working on manned submersibles in the North Sea and decided there was a better way of performing subsea inspection. His first company, Subsea Surveys, was one of the first operators of remotely operated subsea vehicles in the North Sea and in John’s words they were “getting paid by the kilometre of pipeline surveyed, and we got good at it, then got REALLY good at it, then we got an offer we couldn’t refuse and sold the business.”
His second company brought him to the south of England and into the business advisory/consulting world. He developed a deep interest in marketing and business development, grew the business and sold his stake to the other partners before forming Douglas-Westwood in 1990.
John’s first project with Douglas-Westwood was with Newcastle County Council, who were trying to find a tenant for a piece of land and based on the size and shape and location, John identified several options. This included a subsea flexibles manufacturer Wellstream, (now part of GE Oil & Gas) that subsequently occupied the site and remains there to this day.
I met John in 2002 as I interviewed for what was my second ‘proper job’ after graduating university. He had an office building in the grounds of his house, with immaculate gardens, in the middle of nowhere (three miles from the nearest bus-stop) on the side of a valley. On his desk was a picture of his wife, Kati, and behind him on the wall were dozens of framed report covers – published reports that Douglas-Westwood had produced, many of them ‘industry firsts’ including the first commercial study of the deepwater oil and gas business, which at the time was at its infancy.
John had decided to change his business model from working with third-party consultants to having full time employees and I joined as the second full time employee in September 2002. It would be unfair and perhaps unkind to describe John as a workaholic, more so to describe him as someone who never wasted a single moment awake. If he woke up at home at 4am he would start working. If he found himself stuck in a far-flung location over a weekend whilst away on business, he would soon find someone to go scuba diving with and would return with remarkable underwater photographs of the marine wildlife. He loved life and lived it to the full.
Douglas-Westwood, his third business and one he named by hyphenating his middle and last name, was remarkably successful. Within a short period of time, we soon found ourselves having to move out of the grounds of his house and occupy larger premises in Canterbury and subsequently open new offices in Aberdeen, New York, Houston and Singapore. Most of the business was international with clients in over 70 countries. John had a remarkable personality and skillset. He had buckets of charisma, deep intellect and a fierce work ethic. He wanted to succeed, and he was prepared to work hard and work intelligently to do so. He was decades ahead of his time with his interest in marine renewable energy, having won a contract in 2000 to write a report published by the DTI on offshore renewables and subsequently worked with a wide variety of industry stakeholders ranging from Vestas to regional development agencies in the UK such as EEEDA.
John had developed a strong relationship with leading investment banks, private equity firms and financiers and in the 2003-2007 oil cycle Douglas-Westwood built a strong relationship with the likes of Simmons & Company, 3i, Royal Bank of Scotland and many others that were supporting the growth of oilfield services companies. John had struck another ‘industry first’ here, and at the time there were no other specialist firms providing oilfield services sector commercial due-diligence on transactions, both on the buy-side and sell-side, and also offering IPO support – writing the market section of prospectuses for billion dollar listings on major stock exchanges. His success didn’t go unnoticed, and the business model was subsequently copied by a number of other companies over the years.
John harboured an ambition to grow the business further on a ‘buy and build’ approach. By 2014 the company had over 40 FTEs in five offices worldwide and John was approaching his 70th year and thinking not just of the continued growth of the business but also of retirement and enjoying more time with his family. One of his clients, a private equity firm, shared his vision of a ‘buy and build’ market analytics business, and in 2015 subsequently went on to acquire Douglas-Westwood forming a new entity with eight other businesses, one of which also happened to have Westwood in their name. That combined entity still shares his name to this day, Westwood Global Energy Group.
John had a finely-honed business acumen. He was careful with money and regardless of his success was never flashy or extravagant. He loved cooking and food but kept himself fit & healthy and was never over-weight. He liked a glass of wine, but I never saw him drunk. When a client asked which Ferrari John was currently driving, they refused to believe he was driving a Skoda estate car because it could “fit more horse manure in it!”
John was, however, very generous with his staff in terms of his time and attention and also rewarding the success of the business. He flew the entire company to New York to celebrate the company’s 500th project and followed that up with a large client event in London to celebrate the 1000th. Junior staff would often be dreading a 10-hour long-haul flight in economy only to discover at the gate that John had quietly upgraded them with his own air miles to business class. He held wonderful events at his house for the staff where they enjoyed first class cooking and entertainment.
By the time John retired in 2015, his business had completed over 1,300 projects for hundreds of clients worldwide, including senior government departments, all of the top ten oil companies, the top ten oilfield services businesses, the top ten private equity firms and the top ten investment banks. A business he started in his spare bedroom on January 1st 1990, had grown to become an internationally recognised brand with a market-leading reputation.
His three sons all share his entrepreneurial spirit and have all formed and grown their own start-up businesses and with the application of a lot of hard work (and the occasional word of advice from their father), have all been very successful.
John was a brilliant businessman, family man, leader, mentor and friend and we will miss him very much.”