Trevor Hemmings, who died aged 86, was a contradiction – an enigmatic billionaire who fiercely protected his privacy, assisted by a trademark cloth cap, which he joked that he even wore for the breakfast and allow him to sit unnoticed in a pub. But he was an instantly recognizable figure on the racetrack, where his horses won prize after prize.
Hemmings started out as a bricklayer and the fortune he amassed from the property allowed him to become a successful racehorse owner. He has won the Grand National three times and provided the High Kingdom horse, on which the Queen’s granddaughter, Zara Tindall, won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics. His charitable work and support long-term career at the Princess Royal’s Carers Trust earned her the CVO award in 2011.
Along the way he developed Center Parcs and Pontins, bought the Blackpool center and its tower in an attempt to add to his betting interests and saved Preston North End, his local team, from liquidation. Through private companies he owned hundreds of pubs and hotels.
The few talks he gave were mostly about his horses, but he said his commercial success was due to being “very disciplined” and using every hour. “You won’t see me in the restaurants in Lingfield or Ayr. I stand in line at the chippy, ”he said. “You have to learn more about real people and understand their requirements. “
A mainstay of Northwestern business, he was actually born in Woolwich, south-east London, where his father worked at the Royal Arsenal. In 1940, at the age of five, he suffered the devastation of the blitz before moving to Leyland in Lancashire with his father, Monty, and mother, Lilian (née West). His father was transferred to the Chorley munitions factory, far from the German bombers.
He quickly ditched his London accent for the Lancashire tones he kept for the rest of his life. “I wouldn’t have survived otherwise,” he said.
Young Hemmings had two rounds of paper, was a gas station attendant at age 10, and a year later delivered horse and cart races. But upon leaving modern high school at Turpin Green Bridge, he found himself faced with four obvious options: parents, the weaving mills, which were in decline, or become policemen. Instead, he found work cleaning locomotives while taking a business studies class at night school, before becoming an apprentice mason.
In 1960 he started his own business, Hemmings and Kent, with £ 12. He said he continued to sell his businesses “as they became interesting to others.” His first business went to Christian Salvesen for £ 1.5million. He joined the company, but three years later started another homebuilder, Ambrose, which was eventually sold to Barratt for £ 5.7million.
His crucial decision was to join the Pontins holiday villages as real estate director. The company was created by Fred Pontin in the 1940s, transforming a former military base into his first inexpensive summer camp. Hemmings had met Pontin when he had built a village in Southport. The two got along so well that Hemmings would describe himself as the son Pontin never had, tossing him a coin about who should cook breakfast, only to find that Pontin was using a double-headed coin.
Hemmings invested in Pontins and performed well when it was sold to Coral in 1978, before Bass took over Coral in 1980. Seven years later, he led a management buyout of Pontins for $ 57 million. pounds sterling, soon selling it for £ 90million to Scottish and Newcastle. At the head of the company’s leisure division, he bought the British activities of Center Parcs which he was developing. But in 2000 he bought Pontins back, ultimately selling him for £ 46million. Meanwhile, his private businesses were busy with a string of multi-million pound deals involving creameries, construction companies and casinos.
In 1999 he bought part of central Blackpool, including the tower and the winter gardens, anticipating a relaxation of gambling laws. But he was disappointed when the city failed in a bid for a supercasino in 2007. The tower was sold to the council in 2010.
Pontin encouraged Hemmings’ interest in horse racing, teasing him that he would never match his own success by winning the Grand National.
Hemmings’ endeavors in national hunting races did not bring immediate success. One observer said: “We were wondering why he was buying so many donkeys.” He liked to personally select horses and prided himself on buying young ones. “I’m not inclined to buy a £ 500,000 horse because I could win a race. I love to watch them grow and develop.
His racing empire included a 300 acre ‘nursery’ in north Cork and his stud at Gleadhill, near Chorley, from where young horses were sent to selected trainers. He lived on the Isle of Man in his Ballaseyr stud farm, where he described himself as “surrounded by old friends” – his retired champions.
The first winner in its distinctive white, yellow and green colors came to Bath in 1985; his last in Worcester in April this year. In the meantime, he won the Grand National in 2005 with Hedgehunter, in 2011 with Ballabriggs and in 2015 with Many Clouds, tying the record for most wins. His Cloth Cap horse was the favorite for this year’s race, but he stopped. He had more success at Cheltenham and the Hennessy Gold Cup. The race’s tributes praised him as a gentleman to deal with and one of the biggest supporters of jump races.
Hemmings was an enthusiastic owner of Preston North End Football Club after taking control in 2010, injecting millions and delighted with the promotion to the Championship, which followed in 2015.
He once claimed to give “eight or 10 times more” to charity than he spent on horses. Among those he supported were the Red Cross, RNLI, Samaritans and the Carers Trust. In 2002, he donated £ 300,000 for a center at Royal Preston Hospital for victims of sexual assault.
In 1955, he married Eve Rumney. She survives him, along with their three sons, Peter, Craig and Patrick, and their daughter, Carole.