Business leader Ewan Venters talks rural economy at University event

The challenges facing the rural economy will be among the key themes discussed at the 2022 Watt Hepburn Lecture which takes place next month.

Ewan Venters, chief executive officer of Artfarm, the independent hospitality company behind the award-winning Fife Arms in Braemar, will deliver the lecture at the University of Aberdeen on November 3.

Mr Venters will talk about his current role, which includes overseeing hospitality properties in the UK and US, before discussing the issues dominating rural businesses and how best to address skills shortages, talent retention and attraction among future generations.

Mr Venters said: “I’m delighted and very excited to be speaking at such a venerable institution about the challenges facing all of us in Scotland in nurturing, developing and hanging on to the best talent in Scotland amid global competition for the brightest brains.

“We are investing huge sums of money in the north of Scotland and have ground-breaking plans to make it a truly global destination, but we need better infrastructure and much more support across the board to make it a reality.”

Mr Venters was formerly chief executive officer at Fortnum & Mason from 2012 to 2020. Under his leadership, the company made record sales and profits and expanded beyond its historic London home into new locations including Hong Kong, Heathrow Airport and St Pancras Station in London. He also launched the annual F&M Food & Drink Awards, celebrating excellence in food and drink writing, broadcasting and photography.

He joined Fortnum & Mason from Selfridges, where he was executive director for food, restaurants and online. In his seven years at Selfridges, Mr Venters was part of an executive team which transformed the department store. Twice in that period, it was named Best Department Store in the World by its peers.

Artfarm was founded in 2014 by Iwan and Manuela Wirth, co-founders of international art gallery Hauser & Wirth.

Professor Haina Zhang, Head of the University of Aberdeen Business School, said: “We are delighted to have speaker of Ewan’s calibre join us to deliver this year’s lecture. He has forged a highly successful and fascinating career and is a real inspiration for many aspiring entrepreneurs.

“I’m sure that everyone who attends the event will not only find it extremely thought provoking but also very entertaining.” 

The Watt Hepburn Lecture is open to the public. It takes place on 3 November at Kings College Conference Centre from 6:30pm – 8:30pm. Free to attend, tickets can be booked here.

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