TRIBUTES have been paid to prominent North East businessman Sir Lawrie Barratt after his death, aged 85. He died at home after a long illness.
Sir Lawrie, who founded housebuilder Barratt Developments, and his wife Lady Sheila Barratt were thought to still be recovering after they were subjected to a terrifying ordeal by three masked raiders two years ago.
The elderly couple were tied up and gagged at their Corbridge home before the men made off with £100,000 worth of jewellery.
The well-respected businessman established Barratt Developments, today one of the country’s largest housebuilders worth more than £2bn, in 1962 and was chief executive and chairman for around 35 years.
Business leaders have described him as a pioneer whose story will be an inspiration to others.
Mark Clare, chief executive of Barratt Developments, said: “Sir Lawrie had the vision to understand how deeply rooted the desire for home ownership is within this country and he then set out to meet that aspiration by designing and building high-quality affordable homes. Under his leadership the company brought home ownership within reach of many people, through innovative support for homebuyers and the high-profile way it was promoted.
“I believe that it is no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the UK today, across every walk of life, who have bought or lived in homes inspired by Sir Lawrie.”
North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ramsbotham said: “Sir Lawrie was a well- respected and much-admired member of the North East business community and a pioneer in his field.
“My thoughts are with his family and friends on this very sad day.”
Sir Lawrie left school at 14 and initially trained as an accountant. After becoming frustrated at high house prices for first-time buyers, in 1953 he built his own house in Darras Hall.
While he was at the helm of Barratt in the 1970s, the company made a series of acquisitions to become a national construction firm, building around 10,000 houses a year.
The firm grew due to a high-profile marketing campaign featuring actor Patrick Allan in a helicopter and also by offering deals for first-time buyers and part exchanges.
Sir Lawrie stepped down in 1988 but by 1991 the company was badly hit by a recession and he was recalled to turn around its fortunes.
He retired for good in 1997 but remained life president and a significant shareholder in the company. He was knighted in 1982.
Sir Lawrie and Lady Barratt’s granddaughter Fiona is married to the former NUFC and England defender Sol Campbell while their son Peter Barratt followed in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps to open a series of garden centres.
Peter Barratt opened his first garden centre in the late 1970s. The business is now part of the Wyevale group which has 122 stores nationwide.
Sir Lawrie was also heavily involved in charity work, helping to raise money for Red Cross by opening up the couple’s gardens to the public each year.
For Sir Lawrie’s full obituary, see next Thursday’s Journal.