Ian Gerald McAllister was born in Glasgow to Ian Thomas and Margaret Mary McAllister. The family moved to Chorley, Lancashire when he was a child, and he received a Catholic education at Thornleigh Salesian College, Bolton. McAllister graduated from the University of London in 1964, where he gained a BSc in Economics.
McAllister joined Ford straight from university in August 1964, working his way from finance trainee through various positions in sales and marketing in the UK and Germany; before becoming the Marketing Director for Lincoln Mercury in the United States, returning to become Managing Director and latterly Chairman of the UK company which then encompassed just the Ford brand built at Dagenham. During his chairmanship, he returned the company to profitability from losses of £660Million in 1990, but transferred production of the new Mondeo to Genk, Belgium under Ford's global brand program; while retaining Escort estate production at Halewood and Fiesta production at Dagenham.
While chairman of Ford, he held various industry positions, including becoming President of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. After retiring from Ford, McAllister has undertaken mainly Government orientated work, with his only non-executive post at Scottish and Newcastle.
Formerly Deputy Chairman of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, a member of the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment, and formerly an Advisory Council member of The Management School, Imperial College. McAllister was appointed Chairman of Network Rail in October 2002 following the acquisition of Railtrack; is Chairman of the Carbon Trust; a member of the Energy saving trust; and a member of the Advisory Board of Victim Support.
On October 3, 2008, he announced that he will not stand for reelection to continue as chairman of Network Rail. He has held this position for six years. In making the announcement, Sir Ian noted that as Network Rail moves to a "new phase in its development," it is appropriate that there be a new chairman to lead it there.
Married to Susan with four children (three sons and a daughter), he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1996 New Year Honours and knighted in the 2008 New Year Honours. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate from Loughborough University in July 1999..
- INDUSTRIES IN TURMOIL: Ian McAllister knows cars The Independent - March 26, 2002
- School old boy takes on tough railway job Bolton Evening News - 10th October 2002
- Ian G McAllister, CBE - Award of Honorary Doctorate of Technology Loughborough University - July 1999
- Board of the Company Scottish & Newcastle - retrieved August 2007
- McAllister to become Chairman of the Carbon Trust Ford UK - 12 February, 2001
- Bio at the Energy Saving Trust - retrieved August 2007
- "Network Rail boss stepping down". BBC News. October 3, 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7649957.stm. Retrieved on 8 October 2008.