DICK Watson, who has died at 75, was the stuff of legend in South Yorkshire, a construction firm titan who became president and joint owner of Doncaster Rovers and oversaw a golden era in its history.
A multimillionaire and long-time fixture on the Sunday Times rich list, which put his net worth at £90m, Mr Watson had created Keepmoat, the Doncaster development firm, with Terry Bramall, his friend of 40 years.
The two had worked together at the construction firm Taylor Woodrow, and together developed one of the region’s most successful “regeneration” businesses, refurbishing council houses and putting up new, lost cost homes.
Mr Watson, born in Scotland and resident in Tickhill, was credited with developing the firm’s civil engineering operations. He became managing director in 1985, chief executive five years later and, finally, chairman.
When he retired 10 years ago, in the wake of a £783m management buyout, his golden handshake was £142m.
But it was his involvement with Rovers that will cement his place in Doncaster’s hall of fame.
He had joined the board of directors in 2006, becoming equal shareholders with Mr Bramall and John Ryan, and their financial clout was soon to be evident on the pitch. Within two years, Rovers had been promoted to the Championship.
Ill health forced him to step down as vice-chairman in 2012, but two years later he was named president and subsequently saw his shareholding increase, following Mr Ryan’s departure, He was among the first to pay tribute, saying that Mr Watson had always had Rovers’ best interests at heart.
The club’s chief executive, Gavin Baldwin, concurred, saying that the Watson family had been a part of Rovers for years, and could be proud of his legacy.
“We will work with the family and the rest of the board to ensure we build on the tremendous foundations we now have, in large part thanks to Dick’s passion for the club,” Mr Baldwin said.
Mr Watson, who underwent a double heart bypass in 2014, is survived by his wife Marion, and children, Andrew and Sarah.
Rovers will celebrate his contribution to the club before its home game against Gillingham next Saturday.