Born in the Wirral, Merseyside, James had a very successful and varied career managing cinemas, restaurants, holiday camps and bingo organisations. Within a decade from his traineeship with Odeon Cinemas, he became their Regional Executive for the Midlands. After a few years, he became MD of the Rank Organisation, the owners of Odeon. From spells at United Biscuits and Butlin’s, he returned to Rank as MD of its village holiday division. He retired from Rank in 1999.