A terminally-ill businessman and philanthropist has ended his life in an assisted suicide clinic.
Former North East businessman of the year Guy Readman OBE died in Switzerland last month after suffering from incurable motor neurone disease.
And last night, as North East business leaders paid tribute to the entrepreneur, it emerged that Mr Readman had left a £2.5m legacy to community organisations across the region in his will.
The 75-year-old’s daughters Jill Potier Godinho and Jane Greenshields said they supported their father’s brave decision to end his life in a Dignitas clinic in Zurich on August 15.
Jill said: “My sister Jane and I are extremely proud of the way our father handled his cruel illness. He continued to make the most of his life to the end and refused to let his situation bring him down.
“We fully supported his brave decision to go to Dignitas and to take comfort from the knowledge that he had a peaceful, calm and pain-free death in the company of close family.”
The money left by Mr Readman, of Gosforth, Newcastle, will be given to the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland which will administer the legacy on behalf of the family trust he established to support local communities in the region - and will be used to grow the philanthropic funds.
Rob Williamson, chief executive of the Community Foundation, said: “We at the Community Foundation will remember our patron Guy Readman as an irrepressible entrepreneur who managed his business and philanthropic affairs extremely actively, and as a friend and colleague who was as generous with his time and skills as he was with his money.
“His giving was on a world-class scale and he was determined to remain actively involved in it until the end of his life. It was said by leading figures in the field nationally that every community needs a philanthropist like Guy. With that in mind, we were delighted to recognise him with the first North East Philanthropy Award in 2013. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, especially his daughters Jill and Jane, at this very sad time.
“Guy’s hugely generous legacy will be used to grow the philanthropic funds at the Community Foundation, which he established in his lifetime. The Readman funds support a wide range of causes across our area and, with the continuing involvement of Guy’s family, we will now be able to do even more.”
Mr Readman established the Readman Foundation at the Community Foundation and in 2010 he put £500,000 into the charity’s endowment, which generated match-funding from a Government scheme. During his career Mr Readman worked for Price Waterhouse, Proctor & Gamble, Rentokil and Camrex Holdings before founding Tor Coatings in 1976. He went on to sell and buy back the business twice.
In 2002 he finally sold the business to RPM, an American corporation and one of the world’s largest paint companies, with annual sales of $4.5bn, but remained as chairman until his death.
Chief executive of Tor Colin Carter said: “I was only 16 years old when I first met Guy as he interviewed me to be Tor’s first employee on a YTS course. I can remember the interview as if it was yesterday, even recalling some of the questions he fired at me in that unmistakable style he had.
“Having been managing director of Tor for the last 18 years and chief executive of the European business for the last four, I suppose I can look back on it now as a fairly successful interview. Working closely with Guy throughout the years has taught me a lot -always interesting and often exciting. Tor is now firmly established as the centre of a European business which turns over $165m annually and employs 500 people across Europe – 200 of them here in the North East.
“Guy was a gifted and unique businessman who believed in providing employment and opportunity for local people both through Tor and the numerous charities he was deeply involved with. Tor is steeped in his values and the business will undoubtedly go on from strength to strength and that is perhaps the most fitting tribute I can give to a truly remarkable man.”
Mr Readman became a deputy lieutenant serving Tyne and Wear in 2003 and Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear Sir Nigel Sherlock said: “He was a very positive man who had a challenging point of view, which made him very much admired.”
The Swiss suicide clinic used by Guy Readman to end his life has been under the international spotlight following a string of controversial cases.
The Dignitas firm in Zurich has had thousands of users since it launched in 1998.
Committing suicide is not a criminal offence in Britain and assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland if subjects meet the correct criteria.