News came last Friday of the death at the age of 72 of house-building legend, Tony Pidgley, who founded Berkeley Group in 1976.
For a man who ended up in the Sunday Times Rich List, Pidgley came from very modest beginnings.
He was born to a single mother and was a Barnardo’s boy before being adopted by travellers at the age of four.
He grew up in a disused railway carriage, left school at 15, and back then could hardly read or write; but he had learned to drive and to strip down an engine and his first business was set up as a haulage firm.
Aged 19, Pidgley had a fleet of 40 lorries and sold out to Crest Nicholson who appointed him to their board.
There he met another Crest director, Jim Farrer.
When Pidgley fell out with the Crest chairman, he was sacked and Farrer resigned in sympathy.
The pair founded Berkeley Group and floated their business in 1985. Farrer died in 2014.
Rob Perrins, chief executive of Berkeley, said:
“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’d be proud.”
In 2013, Pidgley was awarded a CBE for services to the housing sector and the community.
The most recent estimate of his wealth was £295m and at the time of his death he held shares in Berkeley worth £71m.
Last week, the company announced sales fell by 50 per cent in April and May as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pre-tax profits fell by 35 per cent.