James Brearley may be best known as the former UK CEO of Inchcape UK, but his passion for premium automobiles extends far beyond the boardroom.
For the past 20 years, Brearley has played a major role in restoring Shelsley Walsh, a gem of UK motorsports history and the world’s oldest motorsports venue still in use. More than just a monument of motorsports heritage, Shelsley Walsh provides a place for the community to gather for social events or simply to enjoy a day in the Worchestershire countryside.
Brearley was introduced to Shelsley Walsh in 2002 when he visited the historic hill climb. “It was quite run down,” he recounted. “There were a couple cottages on the start line that were for sale, with weeds going up to the rooftops , it was pretty rough. And a lot of the buildings looked in bad repair.”
Brearley was dismayed at the thought of such a monumental piece of British motorsports history falling into a state of decay. Not only that but the 100-year lease on the property was about to expire, and with it, the hill climb would certainly go. “That was a bit of a blow, and obviously, it was a massive blow to the Midland automobile club and motor racing in general,” Brearley said.
Brearley and three other motorsports enthusiasts put their heads together and formed Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb plc. Using his reputation as a successful businessman, James Brearley knew that he could gain more financial support for Shelsley Walsh as a public company that people could invest in rather than as a charity dependant on donations. Brearley was right. The organisation soon raised over £750,000. They were able to renew the lease for another 100 years and restore the infrastructure back to the way it was at the turn of the century.
“If you turn up at Shelsley today, you’ll see that all of the buildings are in use, they’ve all been rebuilt exactly as they were built, more than a century ago,” shared James Brearley. “The Midland Automobile Club’s offices are there. We built an archive… to archive all the records for the hill climb back to 1905. There’s even a working watermill.” Thanks to decades of dedication and tireless work restoring Shelsley Walsh, the midland automobile club and motorsport in general can continue to enjoy this historic venue for generations to come.
Brearley’s philanthropy goes beyond restoring motorsports history. He is also a trustee of the We Are All Making a Difference charity, where he takes an active role in charitable giving in his native region of the West Midlands with a focus on people with disabilities, those facing homelessness, and children’s charities.
Making a Difference operates with zero overhead: every penny collected is used for charitable giving to individuals and organizations in the community. James Brearley has helped the Kaplans grow the organisation and positively affect the lives of many people in need each year. The charity’s activities include:
- Granting wishes, such as Disneyland holidays, to ill children
- Funding holidays and activities for the disabled
- Sponsoring the Special Olympics
- Supporting dozens of charitable and non-profit organisations
How has Brearley managed to dedicate so much of his personal time to helping others, even while managing one of the largest automotive firms in the UK? His philanthropy and charitable passion projects are a reflection of his managerial style at work. Brearley believes treating people with respect and kindness is the key to a successful business and a flourishing community.
James Brearley stepped down as the UK CEO of Inchcape UK at the end of 2021 to commence a new and significant role in November 2022. They are sure to include new efforts to give back to his community through charitable giving and restoration projects.
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