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Tribute to Forest owner Nigel Doughty, and thanks to Burnley chairman Barry Kilby

Posted on 8 February 2012 | 7:02am

Football has lost two of its best club leaders this week, Nottingham  Forest’s Nigel Doughty to death, and Burnley’s Barry Kilby to illness.

Barry is a personal friend who loves  Burnley, and unlike other chairman does not use the club as a plaftorm or power base, but works hard to make the club stronger. Former manager Owen Coyle got a lot of the credit when yet again we defied gravity to get into the Premier League, albeit for a single season, but Barry Kilby is the man who can take a lion’s share of the credit for the success we have enjoyed recently. I wish him and his wife Sonia well. I am glad he is putting his health first.

And below is the full version of the obituary The Guardian asked me to write following the death of Nigel Doughty on Saturday.

“Nigel Doughty.who died suddenly and unexpectedly on Saturday aged just 54, was a big man, with wealth and generosity to match. Exceptionally tall, good-looking, clever, well-dressed and well-connected, yet modest and unassuming, and someone who never lost connection with his working class roots in Newark.

That connection was most dramatically, and expensively, expressed in his support for Nottingham Forest Football Club. Some chairmen and owners use their clubs as a public platform, fiefdom or power base. Nigel Doughty kept his profile low, his contribution high. Once he became well-off, first in banking, then through building up Doughty Hanson, a private equity firm, he loaned million upon million to the Club, year after year, knowing the chances of ever seeing the money again were slim.

He knew too that the likelihood of the club ever winning a European title again in his lifetime – how he loved to show off the European Cup replica in the boardroom, a reminder of the Brian Clough era that cemented his obsession with Forest  in his early 20s – were slimmer. And he knew, and often complained, that football finances were crazy, and totally unsustainable. But he loved the club too much not to keep putting in the money, almost £100m of it, and plenty more to come, had tragedy not struck in the gym at his Lincolnshire home on Saturday.

I last spoke to him last Tuesday, from Forest’s City Ground, watching Burnley beat his team 2-0. He was in Berlin, watching the game via the internet in his hotel room. Businessmen around the world were used to Nigel Doughty skipping meetings to stay in his room and watch a game he was missing. He was also a real gentleman, and generous to a fault. At Labour Party auctions, Nigel was always the one the auctioneer looked to for a nod to keep the bidding going when others started to flag. And how many football chairmen would offer a supporter of an opposing team a lift home in their helicopter, as he did to me and a Forest-supporting friend last year, after seeing Burnley thrash Forest 5-1?

His death has hit his wife Lucy, their two young children from their marriage in 2004, and two from his first marriage to Carol, which ended in 1997, particularly hard because it was so unexpected. He kept himself fit. On Tuesday, he sounded his usual self – passionate about the club, pessimistic about the match, confident about his own business despite the economic gloom.

If his heart ruled his head when it came to football, he was more hard-headed in business, working with his partner Dick Hanson to make Doughty Hanson one of the most successful private equity firms in the world. The company specialises in buying a stake or taking control of companies, turning them round and selling them on for a profit, its global reach reflected in offices in London, New York, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt, Milan Stockholm, Luxembourg and Prague. Companies and brands bought and/or sold by Doughty Hanson varied from luxury watchmaker Tag Heuer to The Priory clinic, from sportswear firm Umbro to Vue cinemas, Hovis bread and Kipling cakes. They made a £300m profit on their five-year tenure of Rank Hovis McDougall in 2005, and Doughty immediately stepped up his flow of cash to Forest.

Private equity gets a bad press, a lot of it deserved. But Nigel Doughty had real values and they were reflected in the way he did business. His was the first private equity firm to sign up to a UN charter on Responsible Investment calling on investors to take into account social, environmental and corporate governance issues rather than focus entirely on short term profit. When they bought a major Danish energy company, they kept  union representation on the board. Doughty’s thinking has had his part to play in the development of arguments about ‘responsible capitalism’ under Ed Miliband, currently striking a chord with the British public. He was an assistant treasurer of the Party, and last year presented a paper on Small Businesses which is currently being considered as part of Labour’s policy review.

Another example of his not forgetting his roots was his founding of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management. He graduated from the Bedfordshire University in 1984, and won the Distinguished Alumni award in 2004. He has funded a programme to teach business students how to pursue responsibility and sustainability alongside the search for profits. He set up the Doughty Family Foundation and the Doughty Hanson Charitable Foundation, so that in addition to Labour and Nottingham Forest benefiting from his wealth, so have medical, children’s, educational and sports charities. He was particularly happy with the £1m donation he gave to create a new endoscopy centre and pre-operative assessment unit at Newark Hospital, where his mother Mercia worked as a nurse. His father Ted, who introduced him to the terraces of the City Ground when Nigel was seven, outlives him.

His Labour politics came from his working-class background and his belief that those who had should help those who didn’t. But there was more to his support than the £3.6million he gave before the last election, welcome though that was. He was also a contributor of advice, ideas and the little touches of moral support that both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown benefited from in tougher times.

That he was always looking to put something back for the people and places and beliefs he grew up with was perhaps best expressed by his English teacher at Newark Magnus School, Tony Roberts, now the leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council. He  told the Nottingham Evening Post ‘The nice thing was that he made use of his success, he didn’t clutch it to himself, he did some good with it and will be remembered for his tremendous generosity.’ One  professional football club, one political party, many causes and charities, and his family and many friends can all testify to that.

Nigel Edward Doughty, founder and co-chairman of Doughy Hanson, owner of Nottingham Forest, born June 10, 1957, died February 4, 2012, aged 54