Sir Jack Hayward: Businessman who gave generously to British causes and transformed the fortunes of his local football club, Wolves

The multi-millionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist made his fortune in the Bahamas but remained an uber-patriot

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The Independent Online

The colours that defined the life and personality of the multi-millionaire entrepreneur, philanthropist and uber-patriot Sir Jack Hayward remained vivid until his death at the age of 91. Red, white and blue for Britain and its monarchy, for which he retained a deep reverence despite living 4,000 miles away in the Bahamas, where he made his fortune; and old-gold and black for Wolverhampton Wanderers, the football club he supported from the age of six and owned for 17 years as part of a passion for all things Wulfrunian.

Hayward was nicknamed "Union Jack", which was ironic given that he lived abroad for 70 years. Wealthy enough to feature in the Sunday Times Rich List, he was renowned for what he termed "meanness" to himself. A business partner claimed he wore the same scuffed brown shoes for 30 years, and when I interviewed him for The Independent he exuded a shambolic, eccentric air with his rumpled suit and carrier-bag containing scraps of paper.

The flipside of his self-imposed fiscal caution was his habit of donating to "British" causes, especially when they involved underdogs (or Wolves). He funded the England women's cricket team, round-the-world yachtsman Sir Chay Blyth, the rebuilding of a hospital destroyed in the Falklands War and the restoration of Brunel's ship the SS Great Britain.

In 1968 the tendency acquainted him with Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe. A decade later their short-lived friendship resulted in Hayward's being summoned as a prosecution witness when Thorpe was tried for conspiracy to murder his former lover Norman Scott.

His involvement stemmed from his desire to prevent the island of Lundy being bought by foreign developers. Because of its location in the Bristol Channel he contacted West Country MPs, including Thorpe, the member for North Devon. After Lundy was saved for the National Trust, Hayward, who had never set foot there, told a thanksgiving service he had "a hunch" Thorpe would make a good Prime Minister.

Thorpe lamented the fact that the Liberals did not have the financial clout big business gave the Conservatives and the trade unions afforded Labour. Hayward duly donated £150,000, which the leader spent on touring the country by helicopter during the 1970 General Election (the Liberals lost half their 12 seats, Thorpe clinging to his by 396 votes).

Long before the 1978 trial Hayward realised he had been "played" by Thorpe. In Auberon Waugh's book The Last Word he said: "All I've done, and God, how I regret it, is help the Liberal Party despite the fact that I'm not a member, never was and disagree intensely with a lot of their policies." Rinkagate, by Simon Freeman and Barrie Penrose, quoted him thus: "I'm too trusting. I like everyone. Jeremy was very charming and amusing, and everyone was taken in by him, weren't they?"

Hayward was born a quarter of a mile from Wolves' Molineux ground, the only son of engineering magnate and self-made millionaire Charles Hayward. He went to prep school in London and to Stowe public school. During the Second World War he joined the RAF and as a pilot in 671 Squadron dropped supplies behind enemy lines to British troops in Burma.

In 1955 he settled in the Bahamas, where his father had paid £1m for a 25 per cent stake in the Grand Bahama Port Authority. Jack exploited its potential for development in tourism, business and as a destination for ocean-going vessels , concentrating his investment in the deep-water harbour known as Freeport. The vast profits of his Grand Bahama Development Company eventually enabled him to maintain homes in London, Sussex, Scotland and New York, while indulging his parochial sense of philanthropy (he even gave money to the Wolverhampton Musical Comedy Company).

In 1990 he paid £2.1m to buy Second Division Wolves, fallen pioneers of European football and former League champions. Initially opting to remain president (he entrusted the chairman's role to his sons Jonathan and Rick), he had the tyres on the team bus changed from Michelin to Goodyear, whose factory stood a mile from Molineux, and paid for the transformation of a dilapidated ground into a stylish stadium, designed by a local architect and built by a local firm with Black Country cement.

Wolves won promotion to the Premier League in 2003, only to be relegated within 12 months, but as a traditionalist Hayward's "dying wish" was to recapture the FA Cup. This, after all, was a man who, according to the excellent 2000 biography by David Instone, Sir Jack, cited Kipling as his favourite poet, cherished Test matches at Lord's and imported London buses, black cabs, red phone-boxes and an English-style pub to Freeport.

In 2007, when it was estimated that he had ploughed £75m into Wolves, he sold to Steve Morgan for £10 on condition that he invested £30m. In the guestbook for the club museum Hayward wrote: "Glad to have helped."

Such civic generosity did not always sit well with his children, with whom he became embroiled in messy legal disputes. However, Hayward remained on good terms with his wife, who stayed in Sussex while he and his long-time companion Patti Bloom lived in colonial splendour in the Bahamas. "I'm an Empire-builder," he said, "not a tax exile."

PHIL SHAW

Jack Arnold Hayward, businessman and football club owner: born Wolverhampton 14 June 1923; OBE 1968, Kt 1986; married 1948 Jean Forder (one daughter, two sons); died Fort Lauderdale, Florida 13 January 2015.

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