Henry Sweetbaum

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Henry Sweetbaum is the former chairman and chief executive of DIY chain Wickes.[1]

Early career

Sweetbaum studied economics at Wharton, where he roomed with his future business partner, Saul Steinberg.[2]

Sweetbaum went on to work as a cost accountant at Steinberg's company Leasco for a year, before moving to a business equipment manufacturer selling small computers. He returned to Leasco, a year later and played a key role in the focus on leasing computers which drove Leasco's subsequent expansion,[3] He served as executive director of the company, and joined the board of Reliance Insurance when it was taken over by Leasco in 1968.[4]

Sweetbaum left as executive vice president of Leasco in 1969 after differences of opinion with Steinberg, the company's president, about Leasco's direction.[5]

He moved to the United Kingdom in 1970, when he was appointed Executive Director of the Plessey Company Limited.[6]

Sweetbaum became a director of Statesman Travel in 1975, where he joined chartered accountant Richard Boddie.[1]

From 1976 to 1982, Sweetbaum chaired Data Recording Instrument Company, a British government-owned computer peripherals manufacturer.[6]


From 1982-1986, he was Chairman of Wickes International Corporation.[6] His recruitment came at the initiative of corporate turnaround specialist Sanford Sigoloff.[5]

In 1986, he led the management buyout of Wickes plc and served as Chairman and CEO until 1996.[6]

In 1996, auditors Andersen uncovered a scandal that threatened the company, with the discovery of a letter that suggested a two-tier contract system, with one letter that was shown to auditors and another that was not.[7]

In 1996, the Independent alleged that Sweetbaum faced a potential conflict of interest in his role at Wickes, because he was a director and major shareholder in a travel business, Statesman Travel, which provided Wickes with group travel and accommodation arrangements for senior management.[1]

In a statement quoted by the Independent, Sweetbaum said:

The relationship between Statesman Travel and Wickes was a normal arm's length trading relationship, fully disclosed to the board and the auditors of Wickes, and the board resolved the relationship was immaterial, and did not require disclosure.[1]

In 2002, he was one a number of former Wickes directors found not guilty on charges of fraudulent trading and making a false statement to auditors between January 1 1994 and June 27 1996.[8]

During the trial, Sweetbaum reportedly accepted that accountancy fraud meant Wickes' profits were overstated:

'I took the responsibility, I resigned,' Henry Sweetbaum, former chairman and chief executive, told Southwark Crown Court. Cross-examined by crown prosecutor Anthony Hacking QC, Sweetbaum said: 'I do not feel any remorse about the fraud as I was not a party to the fraud.'[7]

PS Capital

In 1997, he co-founded PS Capital LLC, an American company that advises and invests in companies in Asia, Europe and the U.S.[6]

IDC Support

According to the Penn Gazette, Sweetbaum offered funding to the London School of Economics (LSE) and IDC Herzliya for a project challenging the academic boycott of Israel. The LSE turned down the funding but it was taken up by the IDC.[4]


After the 7/7 bomb attacks in London, Sweetbaum sought to support a conference on terrorism in London, which he hoped would also challenge the academic boycott of Israel. He enlisted the support of Harvey Rubin director of the Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Yoram Wind, Lauder Professor at Wharton.[4] Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman helped him to secure the involvement of King's College London and the IDC Herzliya.Finding this mix "somewhat imbalanced", the partners sought the cooperation of an Arab institution, and after some difficulty, enlisted the the Institution of Diplomacy in Jordan.[4]

They subsequently decided to expand the project into a research center, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), launched in 2008.[4]




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 The DIY boss and the private network he assembled himself, The Independent, 28 July 1996.
  2. UK: Henry Sweetbaum - from dishwasher to Wickes, Management Today, 1 January 1991.
  3. UK: Henry Sweetbaum - from dishwasher to Wickes, Management Today, 1 January 1991.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Susan Frith, Radical Threats, Studied Solutions, Penn Gazette, 26 June 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Steve Lohr, WICKES'S NEW LOOK IN EUROPE, New York Times, 22 April 1986.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Henry Sweetbaum – Chairman, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, accessed 15 July 2015.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ex-Wickes boss quit over fraud, This is Money, 18 September 2002.
  8. Ex-Wickes trio cleared of fraud, The Telegraph, 26 November 2002.