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Nik Askaroff - a Sussex giant with a global influence

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Nik Askaroff had that rare ability to analyse a complex issue that had left a Boardroom scratching its head and – within seconds – find a solution. He could look at a set of financial results and instantly identify the weaknesses that needed to be urgently addressed. 

 

Nik had self-belief built into his DNA and a determination to succeed where others had failed.

 

Being the son of immigrant parents in the 1950’s, Nik inherited that steely spirit to survive and thrive. His father Igor had escaped a post-revolution Russia, travelling thousands of miles, hidden with his mother in the coal bunker on a steam train with nothing to their name except ambition.

 

They made a new life in Paris, then Vienna and onto England. Nik was the second of six sons. 

 

He was a quality rugby player and competed at county and national U21 level. But he particularly loved playing alongside his mates at Eastbourne Rugby Football Club matches. Nik, and his wonderful smile, are still on the walls in the club house.

 

This laid the foundations to succeed later in life and sport remained a passion right until the end, when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest on a golf course in Thailand on Christmas Eve 2021, playing alongside his long term partner, whom he loved.

Nik qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1980, but quickly decided that there must be more to life than auditing, financial investigations and tax. He started working in the family fashion textile company, where he soon learnt that, despite the grand title of financial director, he had to be involved in selling, exhibitions, packing cartons and even cutting material. 

 

At just 30, his relish for the commercial side of the business won him the award of Accountant of the Year in 1986. A year later he took up the position of managing director of the UK arm of a 600-store retail fashion group prior to forming Eastbourne Management Consultants Limited - subsequently renamed EMC – in 1989. 

 

Nik was one of the highest profile businessmen in the South East, with extensive experience of running companies of all sizes in numerous sectors. 

He was the leading Corporate Financier in the South East having won the prestigious ‘Dealmaker of the Year’ title three times. In November 2021 he led his EMC team to win the accolade of Corporate Finance Team of the Year. He has completed hundreds of corporate transactions personally and acted on some of the highest profile deals in the Region. His financial know-how and clinical deal-making has helped create over 250 millionaires – he took more pleasure enriching others than himself, a rare quality in today’s world. 

 

A former President of the South Eastern Society of Chartered Accountants, past Chairman of both Business Link Sussex and Sussex Enterprise (the Chamber of Commerce for Sussex) as well as chairing the South East Proof of Concept Fund and the innovation and growth team, Nik was also one of the greatest ambassadors for Sussex businesses and doing business in Sussex. 

 

During his career, Nik held over 50 board positions and used his business acumen to guide entrepreneurs, business owners and management teams in numerous sectors. 

 

And although Nik made a significant impact in Sussex and the South East, his sphere of influence extended around the world, particularly in the emerging markets of China, Russia and India as well as the USA and most European countries. 

 

His sector experience covered healthcare, media and marketing, food, electronics and retail. But in particular, he was passionate about UK manufacturing and UK entrepreneurism and sat on numerous panels advising current and former prime ministers to promote the ‘Best of British’.  

 

Despite his love of commerce, Nik’s true passion was his family. He always put his family first and resisted the bright lights of London to stay on the south coast, which he believed was a better environment for his four children to grow up in. 

 

Running his own businesses and living close to home gave him the flexibility to attend most of the important family events, including making very vocal contributions from the side-lines as he followed his children around the counties playing sport. 

 

Nik also sat as a governor of his children’s secondary school in Hailsham and in 2006 played an instrumental part in coordinating the fundraising to ensure the school received a million-pound lottery grants to build the extensive sports hall and astro-turf.

 

Nik’s far-reaching charitable and pro-bono work has never been fully recognised, but the work was enough to fill several lifetimes. Those many thousands who have been on the receiving end will know in their hearts that the world has lost a very special man who worked tirelessly to encourage and promote those around him to live up to their potential.

 

Nik’s legacies are his thriving business, which is left in the most capable of hands, and – most importantly – his children and eight grandchildren who saw him not only as a father and ‘papa’ (he thought grandad made him sound too old!) but also as a best friend and mentor. He will be missed every day.  

 

Tributes for Nik Askaroff, January 5, 2022

Michael Pay, Michael Gibbs and Ryan Smith, EMC

 

It is with deepest sadness that we share news of the passing of Nik Askaroff, EMC's founder and Chief Executive. Nik suffered a sudden cardiac arrest whilst travelling in the Far East over the Christmas period.

Nik spent over 30 years of his working life building EMC to become the leading corporate finance house and business advisory firm in the South East and the well placed succession plans will ensure that his legacy is built upon.

Our hearts go out to Nik’s loved ones at this difficult time. Please keep them in your thoughts.

 

Ian Fletcher-Price, Founder & CEO, Posturite Ltd

There are not many people you meet that change your life. Nik has shaped mine for the last 20 years and in that time together we have grown Posturite from £5m to £30m and employed 250 staff in the process. But that is only half the story.

He was fiercely loyal and always generous with his time, wisdom and advice. I have witnessed at first hand his expertise with so many local businesses, each and every one of them as important to him as any other.

Despite Nik’s intellect he never looked down on you and patiently guided you along the way at your pace. These rare qualities combined to make him an outstanding human being who will be missed in so many ways by so many people. I feel lucky to have counted Nik as my best friend and mentor and will strive to make the best use of the skills he taught me in the future, in honour to him.

 

Jon Mitchell, owner/director of Eastbourne Car Auctions

I knew Nik for many years both as a friend and business mentor. Nik was at the centre of everything we did and nothing was too much trouble for those he cared about. If you were struggling with a problem, a quick call to Nik would usually point you in the right direction.  I will miss his support for my business, but most of all as a true and trusted friend. 

 

Tim and Sue Cobb, Cobb PR

Nik was tall in stature and a giant in the Sussex business community. He was generous with his time and always happy to help.

We got to know Nik when he joined Sussex Enterprise as a non-executive director in 2002. Nik’s commercial knowledge and business acumen meant he was the perfect choice to ultimately take over as chairman of the business support group.

Nik became chairman of Cobb PR in 2007 and helped bring strong financial management and great business acumen to our company. He was our “go-to” person for any challenges we encountered.

We could always rely on his honesty and objectivity in the knowledge that he had our best interests at heart.

Nik was kind and loyal to us and we will miss him.

 

Christina Ewbank, chief executive, Eastbourne & District Chamber of Commerce

“I met Nik Askarof back when I first joined the Eastbourne Chamber board and was impressed by his understanding and insight. He told me that businesses like his had a responsibility to join and support their local Chambers of Commerce for the good of the whole community. 

“Since then he has supported the Sussex business community behind the scenes in all sorts of ways and will be sadly missed.” 

 

David Bosley, retired 

Nik and I have been friends and work colleagues for more than 45 years, initially from our years together playing rugby in Eastbourne. He was a very fine back-row forward, representing the county at Under 21 and senior level. He could easily have played at a higher grade but enjoyed the camaraderie of the Eastbourne club for which he first played when he was still at the local grammar school.

Our paths diverged for a while, but came back together when he formed his management consultancy, EMC, in Eastbourne in 1989. I was, by then, director of a PR company in Kent and we became Nik's first client. He acted as our advisor and business mentor for the next 13 years, expertly guiding and supporting us through good times and bad, until he helped us to sell the business in 2003. Since then I continued to work with Nik and the EMC team as their PR advisor until my retirement in 2020.

 

Scores of business leaders and entrepreneurs in the South East will have been grateful to Nik and the team at EMC for the support and advice they have given them over the last 32 years. He was immensely proud of the fact that he had not only built EMC to become the region's leading corporate finance and business management team but, in doing so, helped countless business owners to achieve success. He will be sorely missed.

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