A graduate of Columbia Business School, James spent his early career with major international companies such as EMI. Cunard and Trusthouse Forte (THF). In 1983 he co-founded First Leisure Corporation PLC, which was an MBO from THF, and he became Joint MD responsible for 90 operating sites such as Blackpool Tower and Winter Gardens, leisure centres, discotheques and sports clubs. In 1988 he co-founded Northern Leisure plc and raised £36m in equity finance before establishing a group of 40 sites including bowling alleys and residential and care homes. In 1993 he joined City Centre Restaurants plc as CEO. While at City Centre he had the idea of establishing a restaurant chain providing both Italian and American food and so Frankie and Benny’s was born. James was also responsible for the direction and growth of other restaurant brands including Cafe Uno, Garfunkels, Chiquitos and Deep Pan Pizza and increased sales from £89m to £205m achieving a 25% return on capital employed. James is now a non-exec Director of Burgess Group plc a Yorkshire based group with interests in pet foods and property.