James William (Jimi) Heselden


Jimi was a British entrepreneur. A former coal miner, he lost his job in the wave of redundancies that followed the 1984/85 miners’ strike and spent his redundancy money on renting a workshop and, at first, setting up a sandblasting business. Jimi then worked on developing and patenting a collapsible wire mesh and fabric container, now called Hesco bastion, to be used for building flood management and to limit erosion. In 1989, Heselden founded Hesco Bastion Ltd to manufacture containers of the same name; filled with sand or earth, they quickly found favour with the armies of several countries, as they allowed effective blast walls, barriers and revetments to be quickly constructed. They were made in Hesco’s factory in Leeds, these were shipped (flat-packed) in great numbers to conflict zones, including Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as later being used for flood defences at New Orleans. Jimi was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2006 Queen’s Birthday Honours, “for services to the Defence industry and to Charity.” In 2008, Heselden donated £1.5 million to the Help For Heroes fund through a charity auction bid for nine people to fly with the Red Arrows and, in the same year, set up the Hesco Bastion Fund in his home city with a £10 million donation to the Leeds Community Foundation. A further £3 million was added to the foundation in 2009 and an additional £10 million in 2010. Jimi bought Flint Mills, just outside Wetherby and installed a bridge over the river Wharfe so he could lay a track for his ride-on miniature railway. In 2010, he bought Segway Inc., maker of the Segway personal transport system. He died in 2010 from injuries apparently sustained falling from a cliff while riding his own product. His estate, bequeathed to his widow and family, was worth over £340 million and he was ranked in the top 400 members of the Sunday Times Rich List.

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