Former football boss jailed for tax evasion

Indeed, as Susan, the former Darlington Football Club chairman's glamorous younger wife, pointed out, the only difference between her husband and God is that God never claims to be George Reynolds.

Yesterday, as the 69-year-old was sentenced to three years' jail, alongside his cousin Richard Tennick, for cheating the taxman out of £650,000, that arrogance was evident. Arriving in court, he gave a V-sign for victory, declaring the case was a "witch hunt".

Reynolds was orphaned at eight, abused at borstal, and entered into a spectacularly unsuccessful career as a safe cracker before a Catholic prison chaplain convinced him to become an entrepreneur. His determination led him to amass a fortune of £260m, and at one point a place as Britain's 87th richest man. That veneer of respectability and his assertion that he had left behind his "seedy" past appeared somewhat premature as he was told by Judge Guy Whitburn at Newcastle Crown Court that he had squandered his money on "egocentric folly" and his offending merited an immediate custodial sentence.

A man who claimed "The biggest thing that turns me on, besides the missus, is proving people wrong" had been proved just that. When he took on the chairmanship of Darlington FC, he famously said: "I'm dyslexic, backward, mentally deficient and I couldn't read or write. So I've got everything going for me as chairman of a football club." Everything, it would appear, except, as his barrister, David Robson QC, revealed this week, even the slightest interest in football.

Reynolds' story behind in poverty in Sunderland between the wars, when he was orphaned. He played truant from school and was sent, or, as he put it, sold, to a residential school where children slept in freezing dormitories and were forced to mix cement and pick potatoes. His reports were littered with phrases like mentally deficient, retarded and backward.

By the 1960s he was serving a six-month spell for theft and put in solitary confinement for comparing the Durham prison governor to a Nazi. He turned to safecracking during a career which he later conceded was so unsuccessful he would have earned more as a bus conductor. He nevertheless used his time in jail to teach himself to read and write, and in Lancashire's Kirkham Open Prison in 1964 he learnt from the accountants and solicitors incarcerated with him. He emerged and started with an ice-cream van, moving on to a milk bar and nightclub before establishing a kitchen worktop business. By the time he sold part of it in 1988 it was worth £32m.

In May 1999 he took over as chairman of Darlington Football Club, pumping £27m into the venture. Mayhem ensued at the Division Three club as players walked out after his wife claimed they threw matches and Reynolds made threatening home visits to the local newspaper's editor.

The prosecuting counsel Christopher Knox explained that Reynolds used money from his company's legitimate directors' expenses account to fund his extravagance, and added that he treated HM Customs and Revenue with "cavalier contempt".

Reynolds was given five years to repay his £424,252.50 share or face a consecutive five-year prison sentence, while Tennick, sentenced to two years, is threatened with a further three-year term if he fails to pay £225,747.50.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot