Read Octav Botnar, A Life: Biography by John Laughland

This is the story of Octav Botnar (1913-1998). Born on the eve of the First World War on one of the fault lines of European history, after participating in many of the events which would shape the Europe we know today, Botnar became one of Britain’s most successful businessmen at an age when many think of little more than retirement.

Born in 1913 in Czernowitz, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire – now part of Western Ukraine – Botnar had an eventful earlier life: as a young communist, for which he was imprisoned at an early age, a soldier, prisoner of war of the Germans in France, member of the French Resistance in Paris, reluctant apparatchik and gulag internee in Romania, before coming to Britain later in life with his wife and daughter, Marcela and Camelia.

In 1970 Botnar founded Datsun UK Limited, later known as Nissan UK Limited in Sussex, through which he operated the distribution of Nissan vehicles in the UK market for which he had the sole distribution rights under the terms of an Agreement with Nissan of Japan. Under Botnar’s driven, uncompromising, yet charismatic leadership, the fledgling business quickly became immensely successful and became one of the most successful private enterprises of the late 20th century.

However business success was accompanied by the death of his only child at the age of 20. Botnar applied himself with even greater determination, not only in continuing to build on the success of his business, but also to help the disadvantaged, the young and the sick: Botnar was to exercise philanthropy on an enormous scale.


Even so, further difficulties and struggles were to follow and Botnar was to spend his last years fighting the Japanese company whose very fortune in Britain had been built by Botnar himself, and defending himself and his company against huge and unjustified demands from the Inland Revenue, notwithstanding that his company had paid more tax than all its competitors added together.

Botnar built one of Britain’s most successful private companies, created thousands of jobs and paid millions in taxes. He was also instrumental in persuading Nissan of Japan to build its European factory in one of Britain’s most disadvantaged regions, at Washington, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear. He gave millions to charities and was a figure of the 20th Century as worthy of recollection as any, but a very private and modest man, about whom most people knew little. This book corrects that. Expertly researched and written by John Laughland, with a Preface by The Rt Hon Lord Tebbit CH.

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