James Thornton: A Splendid Life
He was surrounded by success. By boys who were later to become hugely famous in the UK. It should therefore be no surprise that James, too, made his mark in all the areas of business he touched.
After leaving school at the age of 15 in the mid 50’s James went on to become a journalist, then editor of a magazine called Export Times. This job took him to Hong Kong — and he never looked back. He abandoned England, fell in love with Hong Kong and stayed there.
A few years later, he was making frequent business trips to Manila and fell in love with the Philippines too. He grew to dislike Hong Kong and was happy to move to Manila where the attitude to life and the climate suited his philosophical outlook.
I first met James in 1990. I went to Hong Kong to set up a direct marketing company.
I asked a leading figure in the business in the UK if he could introduce me to someone in Hong Kong. I was told, “There’s only one man you need to meet — James Thornton — Mr. Direct Marketing SE Asia.”
I remember meeting him for the first time. He was on the phone. He waved me into his office. The conversation went on for ages so I decided to take a look at his bookshelf. I was expecting to see books about marketing and advertising. But instead it was crammed with books about the occult, books about flying saucers, books about Hinduism, Buddhism, reincarnation, aliens, yoga, meditation, astrology, a whole range of whacko subjects. I was quite taken aback but thought, I’m probably going to get on with this guy!
And we did. I liked James the first time I met him. He must have felt likewise because by the end of the meal he invited me to share his office in Hong Kong — and so started a life-long friendship — which came to an abrupt end last Sunday.