CodeDS/UK/219
Dates1882-1941
Person NameCooper; Sir; (Francis) D'Arcy (1882-1941); baronet
SurnameCooper
Forenames(Francis) D'Arcy
PreTitleSir
Titlebaronet
ActivityCooper, Sir (Francis) D'Arcy, baronet (1882-1941), industrialist, was born in London on 17 November 1882, the only son of Francis Cooper (1845/6-1893), chartered accountant [see under Cooper family (per. 1854-1994)], and his wife, Ada Frances, daughter of Henry Power, surgeon. Educated at Wellington College and on the continent, he was articled in the family firm, Cooper Brothers & Co., becoming a partner in 1910. On 3 June 1913 he married Evelyn Hilda Mary, daughter of Arthur Locke Radford, of Bovey House, Beer, Devon. Cooper enlisted in the army in 1915, received a commission in the Royal Field Artillery, and was badly wounded on the Somme. Later he served at the War Office before returning to his firm, where he rapidly established a reputation as one of the ablest members of his profession.

For many years Cooper Brothers & Co. had been auditors for Lever Brothers, which by 1920 was the largest company manufacturing oils and fats in the British empire, with extensive interests in many parts of the world. During the post-war boom, Lord Leverhulme had enormously expanded his business, not least by the purchase of other concerns, notably the Niger Company, and the slump of 1920 brought serious financial difficulties. Finding himself in 1921 under pressure from the banks, who were his principal creditors, Leverhulme called in Cooper who was able to retrieve a desperate situation. From then onwards Cooper's prestige in the Lever business steadily increased: in 1923 he became a director and joint vice-chairman, and within a week of Leverhulme's death in 1925 he was appointed chairman.

Cooper shirked no measures, however unpopular, which he deemed necessary to restore stability and confidence, and by 1929 he had achieved a large measure of success. In that year he completed complicated negotiations with the Margarine Union, the largest continental manufacturers of oils and fats. The business that emerged, under the name of Unilever, was one of the largest in the world. Much of the credit for its creation must go to Cooper's patient and resolute diplomacy. No less remarkable was his success in reorganizing the new concern and guiding it through the economic troubles of the thirties. To weld into a unity a number of former competitors of several different nationalities was an arduous process, but he would allow no personal considerations or old affiliations to stand in the way of complete unification. Beginning with little technical knowledge he showed a swift mastery of detail and a genius for shaping and executing policy, which earned him the respect of his new colleagues.

Had it not been for Cooper, the Lever business might well have shared a fate that has often befallen the creations of dynamic personalities who have failed to provide against their own decline or economic changes. Cooper's qualities, notably of judgement and foresight, became increasingly indispensable to business enterprise during the twenties. By substituting an orderly system of management for personal autocracy, Cooper proved himself a leading member of the rising class of professional managers of large-scale business.

Tall and powerfully built, Cooper possessed a natural habit of command which compelled respect. But he had also an unaffected humanity and a simple hatred of anything savouring of dishonesty, which endeared him to those who worked with him. He was, said Leverhulme, one of those men who 'most resemble a warm fire and people naturally come up to him for warmth', and he had a gift for developing a sense of responsibility in subordinates. As Cooper overcame his natural shyness, his humour and a sense of style, derived from a love of good literature, made him an effective and engaging speaker. Believing that the conduct of modern business called for the best talent available, he gave valuable service as a member of the Cambridge University appointments board (1929-40) and did much to strengthen ties between the universities and industry. He received honours from Norway and Belgium, countries with which the Lever business had important connections, and also from Bulgaria. In the years immediately before the Second World War his services were increasingly in demand in connection with government economic policy and from 1940 he was principally occupied as chairman of the executive committee of the Export Council of the Board of Trade. He paid a useful visit to the United States in the autumn and was created a baronet in 1941. The Coopers had no children and the baronetcy became extinct when Cooper died at his home, Westridge, Coppice Lane, Reigate, on 18 December 1941.
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