Flamboyant former Brighton Marina owner dies

Posted On 29 Mar 2011 at 5:29 pm

The business tycoon who revived the fortunes of Brighton Marina has died aged 81.

George Walker, the former boxer who ran the Brent Walker property and leisure business, took over the marina in 1985.

One of his first decisions was to put in a supermarket, with Asda ending up running the store.

He also started work on the Village Square shops and restaurants complex followed by the flats and houses by the inner harbour.

Given his love of film, it was little surprise that he built a cinema too – now Cineworld – along with a 1,600-space multi-storey car park. These were opened in 1988.

At the peak of his success he launched the Brent Walker sailing race from Brighton to Cadiz in Spain.

But Walker, who was jailed for theft in the 1950s, ended up back before the courts.

He had borrowed heavily in the 1980s to build his business empire and went bust in the early1990s as property prices collapsed and interest rates soared.

He was ousted from his business and, with debts of £180 million, forced into going bankrupt.

He was then charged by the Serious Fraud Office with six counts of theft and false accounting.

But after a long trial he was cleared on all counts.

Walker was born in Stepney, in the East End of London, in 1929.

He was conscripted for National Service in 1945 and, while serving in the Royal Air Force, showed a talent for boxing.

Walker was the British amateur light heavyweight champion in 1951 and turned professional.

Known as “the Stepney Steamroller”, he won 11 out of his 14 professional fights, eight of them by knockout.

He then worked for an underworld gangster before being jailed for stealing nylon stockings in Victoria Docks, London.

On his release from Wormwood Scrubs he married Jean Hatton and started building the legitimate business that collapsed only when he over-reached himself.

He was almost as renowned for his devotion to his wife as for the mixture of flamboyance and charm that he brought to his hard-nosed approach to business.

Having been born the son of an East End drayman, he ended his days as the grandfather of an earl.

One of his three children, Sarah, married the Marquess of Milford Haven, a cousin of the Duke of Edinburgh. The marriage ended 15 years ago.

Walker died of a heart attack in the South of France last Tuesday (22 March).

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