Nigel Doughty: Businessman and football club owner

 

Twin imperatives drove the public life of Nigel Doughty. A venture capitalist who was co-founder of Europe's largest private equity firm, he also espoused left-of-centre views that inspired a strong charitable zeal. The fusion of finance and philanthropy found an expression in his ownership of Nottingham Forest football club, a lifelong passion that was soured in the months before his death.

According to last May's Sunday Times Rich List, Doughty's net worth of £130m made him the 537th wealthiest person in Britain. Yet he often took the train to attend Forest matches and chatted to supporters on the walk to the City Ground, his conspicuous height making it impossible for him to avoid recognition even if he had wanted to.

He also featured in the ST Giving List, which ranks the 50 people who have donated the highest proportion of their wealth to charity. The £3.8m he gave in the year to last May included £1m each to the NSPCC and Newark Hospital, where his late mother Mercia worked. A stronger advocate of social justice, Doughty also donated £1m during that period to the Labour Party, earning second place in the list of individuals making political donations.

The money he ploughed into Forest, whom he had supported since childhood after being born in Newark-on-Trent, came in the form of loans totalling £75.6m since 1999, when he paid £11m for control of the financially stricken club. He said he saw the outlay as a "community investment", adding: "If I was a financially sophisticated person and I was expecting my money back, I'd probably need certifying."

If the expenditure was intended to restore Brian Clough's old club to the Premier League, it was unsuccessful. The former European champions even slipped into League One, the English game's third tier, for three seasons. Doughty, who became chairman in 2001, appointed a succession of "permanent" managers. The sixth, Billy Davies, was sacked last summer after two consecutive failures in the play-offs for promotion from the Championship.

The tenure of Steve McClaren, the former England manager, would break the impasse, though not in the way Doughty hoped. McClaren lasted only 111 days before resigning after a home defeat by Birmingham. Vehement abuse from sections of the crowd prompted Doughty to step down as chairman, though he remained owner, and he did not return to watch another game. With honesty unusual for a director in today's football, he owned up to a "very poor decision" in appointing McClaren.

Despite his wounded retreat, he put funding in place to ensure Forest's ability to trade for the next two and half years. His last gesture was to pay Portsmouth £200,000 to buy out Steve Cotterill's contract as manager, but Forest continue to struggle in 23rd place. Doughty's son Michael, 19, is a midfielder with Queens Park Rangers who is currently on loan to Crawley Town.

His business career began after a Masters in Business Administration at Cranfield University. In 1984 he was a founding member of the management buy-out unit of Standard Chartered Bank, where he met Richard Hanson. In 1990 they formed CWB Partners, a private-equity joint venture between Standard Chartered and Westdeutsche Landesbank, establishing Doughty Hanson & Co as an independent firm in 1995.

The group has its headquarters in London and offices throughout Europe. Its assets are valued at £8bn, and Doughty chaired the investment committee of all Doughty Hanson's private equity, real estate and technology venture funds. Its Pall Mall offices also became home to the Doughty Hanson Charitable Foundation, run by Doughty, Dick Hanson and a committee comprising members of staff. It supported around 200 charities. He also provided £3m to Cranfield's School of Management to fund a Centre for Corporate Responsibility, explaining that his "whole career" had been "built on what I did there". He called it "a way of giving something back".

Doughty, who died in his gym at home, had donated £3.5m to Labour over the past seven years, leading its Small Business Taskforce and serving as an assistant treasurer since 2009. The party leader, Ed Miliband, described him as "a kind, generous man with a deep desire to make the world a better place". A message on one of the floral tributes left in the snow at Nottingham Forest read simply: "Our latter day Robin Hood. RIP."

Nigel Doughty, businessman and philanthropist: born Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire 10 June 1957; married 1985 Carol Green (divorced 1997; one son, one daughter), 2004 Lucy Vasquez (two sons); died Skillington, Lincolnshire 4 February 2012.

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