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Anglian Windows founder dies at 81

PUBLISHED: 06:23 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:17 02 July 2010

George Williams

George Williams

Michael Pollitt, obituaries editor

Double glazing tycoon George Williams, who started the country's biggest window empire, Anglian Windows, in his Norwich garage, has died at the age of 81.

Michael Pollitt, obituaries editor

Double glazing tycoon George Williams, who started the country's biggest window empire in his Norwich garage, died yesterday at the age of 81.

When he retired as chairman of Anglian Windows in 1990, it employed 4,000 staff and was

the country's fastest-growing business of its kind with a £140m turnover.

After failing to find someone to double glaze his home in Park Close, Old Catton, he apparently decided at 2am in May 1966 that he could do better. He started Anglian Windows with £450 capital, and 18 years later the business was acquired for £33m by industrial conglomerate BET (British Electric Traction), which also owned Norwich-based Boulton & Paul.

It was a remarkable success story, driven by his energy, but he admitted that for the first three years, he worked sexing poultry for Norfolk's turkey king, Bernard Matthews, because "I didn't know how it would go."

A turning point was the decision to open a High Street showroom in Ipswich in 1969 and the network grew rapidly to a total of 118 branches nationwide, with Mr Williams employing hundreds of staff. Norwich even became known as the "city of windows."

In September 1984, BET bought 80pc of Anglian Windows for £26.8m and Mr Williams sold his 74pc shareholding for £8.8m cash, £10m in loan notes and £6m in BET shares.

Mr Williams retired at 62. By then, he had the opportunity to enjoy the trappings of wealth, including the estate at Old Hall, Weston Longville. And with the helicopter, plane and 70ft cruiser, later donated to an American conservation charity, it was no surprise that he regularly featured in the Sunday Times list of Britain's richest 100 people with a fortune estimated at between £30m and £35m in the 1990s.

But aged 65, Mr Williams decided in 1992 to return to making windows. When he became chairman of Aspen Windows, then based at Lenwade, it was quickly on the expansion path. By February 1993, a new factory in Heigham Street, Norwich, had been opened and 150 staff were employed. By 1998, he had finally quit the window business.

A severe fall at his home last summer left him almost totally paralysed but he did make a partial recovery.

He is survived by his wife Alex. His first two marriages, to Carole and to Sybil, ended in divorce. He has a daughter Jane and sons Carl, Simon and Ben.

A private funeral will be held followed by a memorial service, details to be announced later.

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