British homebuilder Berkeley Group has said its chairman and co-founder, Tony Pidgley, died suddenly on Friday, aged 72.
“He died of a stroke, he was working yesterday and went to (the) hospital last night and then sadly passed away earlier today,” a company spokesman told Reuters.
Pidgley helped set up Berkeley Group in 1976 and became chairman more than a decade ago.
Chief executive Rob Perrins said in a statement: “Tony was a brilliant man who I have been fortunate to work closely with for 20 years.
“He started Berkeley by building one house and his vision grew into a FTSE 100 company.
“He knew he would never retire so he ensured that his culture was embedded in the company for when this sad day came.
“Berkeley and I owe Tony a huge debt. With my team I will ensure this debt is honoured by continuing to position Berkeley as the leading place-maker and ensuring it continues to be a company of which he would be proud.”
Deputy chairman Glyn Barker, who joined Berkeley Group as a non-executive director in 2012, will take up the chairman role on an interim basis.
He said: “It has been an immense privilege to work with Tony.
“He created a unique company with a strong management team that has been led by Rob Perrins since 2009.
“Under Rob’s leadership, Tony’s values of ambition and quality will ensure the business continues to flourish.”
Pidgley won many accolades throughout his career, serving as president of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and being named a CBE in 2013 for “services to the housing sector and the community”.
In 2015 he was named Business Personality of the Year at the 2015 City A.M. Awards.
Adopted from Barnardo’s aged four by travellers and brought up in a disused railway carriage, he left home and school aged 15 barely able to read and write, but with a strong understanding of business.
“On Sunday, my mum would count the family wealth and if we were not a little richer, it meant a little less came off the table,” he told City A.M. back in 2015.
Aged 19, Pidgley had amassed a fleet of 40 lorries through years of saving and Crest Nicholson acquired his haulage business and appointed him to the board.
That is where he met Jim Farrer, a Crest director at the time who he later founded Berkeley Group with.
As a 19-year-old on a board, Pidgley clashed with Crest’s chairman, and Pidgley was sacked, with Farrer resigning in sympathy.
The pair founded Berkeley Group in 176 and floated their business in 1985.
“I didn’t call being sacked a lucky break at the time,” Pidgley said in 2015. “Jim and I, we went to lunch and thought what are we going to do? So we said let’s start our own. And that is just how Berkeley was formed.”
Shares of Berkeley, which operates mainly in London, Birmingham and the South of England, closed down 3.8 per cent at 4,105p on Friday.
Berkeley last week stuck by its commitment to return £280m to shareholders annually, despite a 35 per cent fall in annual profit in a bruised market.