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28 July, 2019 - 13:40 By Tony Quested

Sir Michael Marshall’s death a huge loss to Cambridge

Sir Michael Marshall, the honorary life president of Cambridge’s largest industrial employer – the Marshall Group – has died on a family holiday in Spain, aged 87.

A small private ceremony will be held in due course but the family and the company are planning a major celebration of his life at a later date.

A flag at the Cambridge UK headquarters of the Marshall Group was lowered to half mast this morning. No cause of death has yet been communicated.

Sir Michael recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of securing his pilot’s licence and was planning a flight to Morocco in September to commemorate the milestone.

Few would argue that, despite the company’a century-plus109-year-old history, it was Sir Michael’s foresight and steady hand on the tiller that turned the company into a business of our times and a force for the future. The aerospace and defence group has become a world leader, the Motor Group has been spun off, floated on the London Stock Exchange and through acquisition has become a UK powerhouse.

And recently Sir Michael oversaw the announcement that the company was to move the airport and, to help ease Cambridge’s growth pains, release vast acres of land for quality housing and commercial development.

Sir Michael remained determined that any redevelopment of the site that generations of his family had nurtured with care should only be developed to the highest quality.

Having taken Marshall of Cambridge into a global elite of highly respected businesses in the view of world governments and major corporates, Sir Michael never lost sight of what he felt was his role in promoting Cambridge on a wider stage.

He personally invested in several of Cambridge’s brightest technology companies and adopted numerous roles in a broader context to improve the city’s reputational capital internationally.

Sir Michael was educated at Eton College and read History at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he also gained his rowing Blue and rowed for Great Britain. Prior to attending university Sir Michael completed his National Service as a pilot in the Royal Air Force between 1950 and 1952. 

He joined the family business in 1955. In 1963 he was appointed managing director of Marshall (Cambridge) Limited and was appointed deputy chairman of the Marshall Group of Companies in 1965. He became group chairman and chief executive in 1989. 

In 2011 he handed over his responsibilities as Chief Executive to his son, Robert, and the chairmanship to Alex Dorian. Sir Michael’s role evolved into a life presidency as the group broadened its executive team to take the business to a fresh plateau of opportunity internationally.

Sir Michael was High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire in 1988 and served as a Deputy Lieutenant of the County from 1989, including as Vice Lord-Lieutenant from 1992 to 2006. He was involved with the development of other businesses, serving for a time as a director of the Eastern Electricity Board and of the BL Cars Distributor Council.

He was a Vice-President of the Institute of the Motor Industry and a Vice-President of the Engineering Employers Federation from 1993-2003. He served on the Air Cadet Council and as President of The Air League from 2004-2009.

Sir Michael  held a distinguished record of voluntary service, including with the Cambridge Appeal for the British Olympic Association, the Prince's Trust Fundraising Committee and The Ely Cathedral Restoration Appeal.

He was President of Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust, chairman of the Court of Benefactors of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, the Honorary Air Commodore of the Anglian Regiment of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and a member of the Council of The Prince's Charities. 

He was awarded a CBE in the 1999 Queen's Birthday Honours and a knighthood in the 2010 New Year's Honours.

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