Former tourism boss steps up to lead key North Yorkshire business organisation

·3-min read
James Mason has been appointed as the new chief executive of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. Picture Thomas Gadd
James Mason has been appointed as the new chief executive of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. Picture Thomas Gadd

A FORMER tourism boss has taken the helm as the head of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.

James Mason has been appointed as the new chief executive officer, and will officially start his new role on Tuesday, May 2.

The 43-year-old, who stepped down as chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire in October 2021, will spend the coming weeks shadowing current chief executive Sandy Needham, who retires from the post on Friday, April 29.

Having set up his own manufacturing business more than 20 years ago, James has enjoyed a varied career including leadership roles at Bradford City and Rochdale Football clubs, as well as a period working as a sports agent.

As a qualified journalist, James worked for many years as a news and sports reporter with the BBC and is the founder of two not-for-profit dementia cafes in West Yorkshire.

James said: “I am delighted to be joining the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce to champion, connect, represent and support such a diverse range of fantastic businesses and work with the brilliant Chamber team.

"Ever since I set up my own company in my early twenties, I’ve always been passionate about business and the region I’m proud to call home.

“Over the past two years I’ve seen first hand the challenges and opportunities that Covid-19 has presented to business and it is important to collaborate with stakeholders and be creative to make this part of the world the most attractive place in the UK to do business.

“I’d like to thank the board for putting their faith in me and to Sandy (Needham) who has done a fantastic job over many years.

"She will be a tough act to follow but it will be a privilege to carry on her excellent work.”

Chair of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber, Amanda Beresford, added: “We are delighted that James is joining as Chief Executive as we prepare to mark the end of a 25-year era with Sandy at the helm.

“James’ passion for and knowledge of our region, combined with his experience as a business owner and leader, will ensure the all-important stability and growth needed not only for our post-pandemic business community but also for members of our organisation, which has been supporting and representing businesses for 170 years.”

James was in post with Welcome to Yorkshire for almost two years, having taken over the troubled tourism organisation after it had been grappling with major financial issues.

He was the organisation's second chief executive following Sir Gary Verity who resigned in March 2019 on health grounds amid allegations about expenses spending.

Independent inquiries revealed a lack of clear spending policies which meant accountants were unable to determine whether almost £1m worth of expenses were 'reasonable and proportionate'.

Sir Gary paid back £44,000 to WTY and a police investigation into the matter was closed in 2020 with a decision to take no further action.

James' brief, when he started in January 2020, was to guide WTY towards steadier waters, significantly cut costs and reinvigorate the brand.

During his time, faced with the challenges of the pandemic, he oversaw WTY's ‘Walkshire’ campaign, the launch of a personal membership and tree planting scheme, as well as the implementation of a tourism recovery plan.

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