Manufacturer of Specialist Coatings
Guy Readman was a prominent North East businessman. He was born in Hounslow but raised in Castle Eden, County Durham, from the age of nine. He was privately educated as a boarder at Worksop College in Nottinghamshire. He qualified as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse before working for six years for Procter & Gamble. He joined the Sunderland paint group, Camrex, and was quickly promoted to the board. In 1975, he struck out on his own, co-founding Tor Coatings to manufacture technologically advanced paints and coatings. Then based at Gateshead, the business prospered under Guy’s leadership as chairman and managing director and, when sold in 1996 to RPM International, it employed 80 people and had annual sales of £6.7 million and profits of £1.4m.
Readman was a man who saw the bigger picture. A strong economy and thriving business sector were in his view essential to the future of the North East. In 1985, he was awarded the OBE for services to industry. He served as President of the Tyne and Wear Chamber of Commerce from 1987-88 and as Chairman of Confederation of British Industry for Tyne and Wear between 1994 and 1996. He was voted North East Businessman of the Year in 1995.
His thinking on business was mirrored in his approach to philanthropy. Giving back to society was a natural corollary of having wealth, not by giving indiscriminately but rather by supporting charitable organisations that had the greatest impact. He passionately believed that third sector organisations should be run as well as private firms. They needed philanthropic support, however, because they took on difficult challenges neglected by the private sector. It is this thinking that Guy brought to the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland where, in 1994, he established a fund to help improve the life chances of disadvantaged young people. He added to the fund at regular intervals, with his final gift taking the form of a £2.5-million legacy received after his death in 2014. His daughters, Jane and Jill, are now involved with the funds he established.
Guy Readman was a champion of the Community Foundation that helped define his life’s purpose. He served on the board and as a member of the Finance and Investment committee. He became a patron in 2005. He inspired other independent business owners to follow his example. In 2013, he became the first-ever recipient of the North East Philanthropy Award. When he died the following year, after suffering from motor neurone disease, he was paid a fitting tribute by George Hepburn, former chief executive of the community foundation, with whom Guy worked closely on numerous philanthropic schemes and projects:
“However deep their pockets, philanthropists cannot solve the enduring problems of poverty and inequality on their own. But they can set an example for the rest of us and few have done so more fulsomely than Guy Readman.”
The same sense of gratitude for a life well lived still echoes across the North East.
Community Foundation for Tyne, Wear and Northumberland. (2017). Making a difference to poverty, Available here (Accessed: 08/03/2018).
Hepburn, G. (2014). The Enduring Legacy of Guy Readman, Columnibus. Available here (Accessed: 08/03/2018).
Newcastle Gateshead. (2018). Guy Readman OBE, DL, FCA, Available here (Accessed: 08/03/2018).