Tributes paid after death of Sunderland-born safecracker-turned-millionaire George Reynolds

One of the North East’s most colourful – and controversial - figures has died.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 2:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 7:12 pm

Former safecracker turned multi-millionaire George Reynolds gave up a life of crime to build up a hugely-successful business empire.

Born in Dock Street East in Sunderland in 1936, he was jailed for safe-cracking and theft several times in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Vowing to change his ways, he established a number of business, including one manufacturing kitchen worktops in County Durham.

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By the early 1980s, Direct Worktops was making 200,000 worktops a year and George Reynolds was one of Britain’s wealthiest men, appearing in the Sunday Times Rich list and owning a fleet of luxury cars, a mansion, a villa in Spain and a home in the Lake District.

With typical modesty, his business card read “Gentleman, entrepreneur, adventurer, maker of money and utter genius.”

He bought Witton Hall in County Durham only to demolish and rebuild it and wrote his autobiography, typically titled ‘Cracked It’.

George took over Darlington Football Club in 1999 and built the team a £20million new ground on the outskirts of the town, which he named unsurprisingly after himself.

George turns up to Darlington's pre-season training in a convict's outfit, complete with ball and chain

He vowed to take the club, then in the fourth flight, all the way to the Premier League, but the dream soon turned into a nightmare. Darlington went into administration and George and the club parted company in 2004 mere months before the new ground opened.

He was back behind bars in 2005 after admitting tax evasion and being jailed for three years.

George never lost the lust for business, however, and subsequent ventures included a take-away in Durham named Georgie Porgies’ Puddings and Pies and a vape shop in Chester-le-Street.

Broadcaster Paul ‘Goffy’ Gough was a close friend and posted a tribute to George on his Facebook page: “Those days with George on Century Radio were the best fun ever,” he said.

George Reynolds

"I have also loved our lengthy chats in recent weeks via the phone. Rest in peace.”

Former Echo reporter John Gelson was among those who commented: “I always remember the day he came in to be interviewed by BBC Cleveland (now Tees) sport,” he said.

"It was a warm day and he hired an ice cream van and bought everyone in the place a '99!

"RIP George - thoughts with his family and friends.”

George poses with the FA Cup during his time as Darlington chairman

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George in his office at the Shildon factory