THE managing director of one of the region's most successful businesses will end a 30-year association with the company on Friday.

Mike Matthews at Eaglescliffe automotive firm Nifco at the end of the week, with the company saying he wants to devote more of his time to wider economic development work.

The shock announcement was made by the company, which was named North East Company of the Year in 2016, this week.

Mr Matthews, who began his career as an apprentice before working his way up to the top job, helped transform Nifco’s business in the UK.

The prominent business figure was awarded an MBE in 2014 for services to business in the North East, as well as being named North East Business Executive of the Year and serving as president of the North East England Chamber of Commerce.

A company statement read: "Mike was an excellent ambassador within the Nifco Group and the business environment, and he was a massive advocate of the development of skills in the industry and committed many hours to external groups to drive the closing of the skills gap that affect industry.

"Mike has worked in Manufacturing, doing the same type of work, for almost 40 years, since leaving school, with the past ten years, or so, also contributing to the operations of North East organisations such as the NE Chamber of Commerce, previously, holding the post as their president, the Tees Valley Combined Authority and the NE Automotive Association, as Deputy Chair, amongst many other organisations. We were delighted when Mike was honoured with a Queen’s MBE Award for his services to business in the North East.

"Mike’s passion lies in sharing his knowledge and experience with such organisations and local businesses towards developing the economy, and he wishes to fully concentrate his efforts in this direction.

"Mike has stated that leaving Nifco is a big wrench, after so many years’ service – but he has little chance to do justice to both his job at Nifco and to the business environment – Mike himself has grown with the business, and to this end he wishes the Nifco Group, and everyone at Nifco, growth and success."

Rachel Anderson, assistant director, North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “Mike Matthews is a stalwart of the business community and a strong supporter of the Tees Valley and North East in general. I’m sure his unique talents will be invaluable to whatever role he takes on in the next stage of his career.”

Nifco added that it would be creating a new organisational structure, which would be announced “in due course”.