Remembering Alan Rugman, 1945-2014Jul 31, 2014
Alan Rugman was an outstanding academic and a leading figure in both International Business and Strategic Management. His research has had a profound impact on how both academics and practitioners around the world think about international business.
Born in England in 1945, Alan came to Canada to do his PhD in economics at Simon Fraser University. He had a great deal of affection for both his alma mater and the city of Vancouver, where he married his beloved wife Helen. He became a Canadian citizen in 1973.
Simon Fraser University honoured him with an Outstanding Alumni Award in 2010, an award he was deeply proud of. At the most recent Academy of International Business meetings in Vancouver, he often referred to the time that he and Helen spent here.
Alan went on to a most distinguished academic career. At the time of his death he was Head of International Business & Strategy at the Henley Business School at the University of Reading, and a founding fellow of the John Dunning Centre for International Business. Previously he held the L. Leslie Waters Chair of International Business at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, 2001-2009. He was Thames Water Fellow in Strategic Management at Templeton College, University of Oxford from 1998-2001.
However, he began his academic career in Canada where he held tenured positions at the University of Toronto from 1987-1998, Dalhousie University from 1979-1987, and the University of Winnipeg from 1970-1978. He has also been a visiting professor at Columbia Business School, London Business School, Harvard University, U.C.L.A., M.I.T., Warwick Business School, and the University of Paris-La Sorbonne.
Alan was an outstanding academic, and one of the founding fathers of what is today called international business. At the time of his graduation from SFU, the field of international business as we know it today did not really exist. Alan was an early proponent of Internalisation Theory, which along with the Eclectic Paradigm, formed the basis of theories of foreign direct investment. He developed these ideas in the 1970s, where he worked closely with other pioneers in this field, including Mark Casson, Peter Buckley and John Dunning.
In 1981 Rugman published one the seminal works on the theory, Inside the Multinationals: The Economics of Internal Markets (Columbia University Press, reissued in 2006). In this book Rugman first postulated the framework that underpins his thinking on multinational enterprise activity. He devoted much of his academic career to the Academy of International Business and served as its President from 2004-6. He was also Dean of the Fellows of the Academy (2011-2014).
His later academic work built up on these early seminal contributions, developing practical means to apply them to strategic management and studies of competitiveness of firms and countries. In a 20-year collaborative partnership with Alain Verbeke from the University of Calgary, they proposed a number of innovative approaches to understanding the consequences and implications of multinational enterprises, both for firms and countries, and the limits of globalization. The common feature of much of his later work was to translate complex economic reasoning into simple frameworks and models, making them easily accessible to a larger, non-specialist audience.
Over his career Alan published over 400 articles dealing with the economic, managerial, and strategic aspects of multinational enterprises and with trade and investment policy. These contributions make him one of the ten most cited scholars in the field of International Business worldwide.
He had a particular impact on Canadian public policy, having served as external advisor to two Canadian prime ministers on issues of trade, FDI and international competitiveness, and in such capacity advised on the negotiation and adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He believed strongly in the benefits of free trade and participated actively in the policy debate within Canada between pro- and anti-free trade advocates.
He will be remembered as a valued colleague and friend. International business scholars will remember him as intensely passionate with a love of debate, often undertaken with his characteristic caustic wit. He was also very kind and generous with his time, particularly for young scholars. His students and others have often noted that he was one of the few eminent scholars who were consistently approachable: he listened to their presentations, communicated with them and provided valuable feedback. He was a warm and gentle individual who treated all who approached him with respect and kindness. He is survived by his wife, Helen, and their son, Andrew.