“And it turned out you do eventually get to be a winner if you work hard enough.”
These were the words of Jack Tordoff.
He made them on the stage of The Yorkshire Post’s Excellence in Business Awards, having just received the event’s Lifetime Award.
Those words have stayed with me ever since that night, and all likelihood always will do.
Mr Tordoff, whose death has been confirmed this week by his family, was nothing short of an absolute Yorkshire legend.
The firm he built, JCT600, is one of Yorkshire’s great success stories and Mr Tordoff’s story should serve as an inspiration to us all.
Now 75 years old, the £1.3bn vehicle retailer owes its origins to a humble workshop and petrol filling station in Bradford.
Like himself, Mr Tordoff’s father Edward was also an entrepreneur but he lost his life early, meaning Jack had to leave school at 14 and start work as an apprentice mechanic in the business.
After concluding his national service and armed with a loan of £1,000 from his mum, he bought out his father’s old partners and began steering the firm’s direction his own way.
The result is the region’s largest family-owned business.
With 54 dealerships representing 25 of the world’s leading car marques, it employs a team of 2,300 people from the North East through Yorkshire and into Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.
His legacy is not just confined to business. Mr Tordoff did not just know how to sell cars, he could drive the hell out of them too.
After buying a Mercedes-Benz 600 with the number plate of JCT600, he not only renamed the business after it, he proudly wore the number plate on all his rally cars as he competed in Britain and Europe during the 1960s and 1970s with considerable success.
He achieved victory in the International Circuit of Ireland Rally in 1973 driving a Porsche 2.7RS, the first international rally win for the car.
Mr Tordoff’s passion for entrepreneurialism was matched only for his love and deep respect for both his home city of Bradford and Yorkshire as a whole.
When Bradford City Football Club was in administration in the 1980s it was Mr Tordoff who stepped in. When the club’s Valley Parade ground suffered a horrific fire, it was Mr Tordoff who stepped in to help rebuild it.
But while his business and philanthropic record are so celebrated, perhaps his greatest legacy is that of his family.
Mr Tordoff was married to his wife Jean for 66 years and had three children – Lesley, Ian and John – the latter of whom today serves as the firm’s chief executive and who has himself taken the business to new and dizzying heights, creating employment for thousands of people. His eldest son, Ian, is also a director and seven grandchildren all work within the business.
Meanwhile, among his 10 grandchildren is his grandson Sam, who has continued Jack’s motor racing tradition in later years with many race wins in a number of disciplines, including the Porsche Carrera Cup and the British Touring Car Championship.
The message regarding hard work was one Mr Tordoff embodied his entire life. Well into his eighties he served as JCT600’s chairman. At the time of receiving his 2016 award he was still heading into the firm’s offices every day and keeping track of everything that mattered.
Two years later I received a call at my desk and it was him, asking why we had not covered his being awarded the OBE.
Embarrassed, I had to confess that it had slipped our attention and then hastily cobbled together some coverage.
Far from my finest hour but we all make mistakes.
I can only hope that for the rest of my career I make as few as Jack Tordoff did. It is hard to imagine him making any.
My heartfelt condolences go to his family.
A true legend who will be sorely missed.
And never forgotten.