Business and recruitment worlds mourn Tony Berry

The worlds of business and recruitment have remembered the life of Tony Berry who has passed away aged 81 after a long illness.

He was among the leading businessmen of his generation and his drive and deal-making took him to the chairmanship of a £1bn-valued company.

After qualifying as a management accountant with Guinness he joined Bovril then took a position at an office cleaning company where he remained through the 1970s.

In 1981 he bought a controlling stake in Blue Arrow, a recruitment business in St Albans, Herts.

He grew this company quickly and acquired a number of other businesses including Manpower and Brook Street.

It was launched on the Stock Exchange becoming a FTSE 100 company and developing into the biggest recruitment business in the world. It sponsored Britain’s America’s Cup challenge in the late 1980s.

Tony was once voted ‘best dressed man in the City’ and his generosity and largesse were legendary.

Further success followed and latterly Tony was chairman of the eponymously-named company Berry Recruitment Group (BRG).

It works from almost 40 locations across England and Wales and turns over around £70m per year.

As well as his recruitment business Tony was a long-time director of Tottenham Hotspur and was club chairman in 1991-92.

He had been born in Edmonton, north London, and not only supported Spurs but played for their youth team before being told by the great manager Bill Nicholson that he wouldn’t make the grade.

But he had more than one string to his sporting bow and enjoyed success as a boxer and cricketer.

He was ABA Schoolboys boxing champion and had he not retired might have been selected for the Rome Olympics where he could have met Muhammad Ali.

As a cricketer he played at Lords for Middlesex Young Amateurs and Middlesex Second XI, once opening the batting with Mike Brearley.

He captained Edmonton Cricket Club for years and also served as its president and it was on a cricket tour to Bournemouth where he met his wife Marion.

They had children Spencer and Jemma, both of whom work in the family business along with Jemma’s husband Chris who is managing director.

Spencer said: “So many people attended the funeral to pay their respects – there was standing room only.

“We heard so many wonderful stories about him from all sorts of people.

“He was diagnosed with cancer around 20 years ago but it didn’t stop him. He had always been a man in a hurry.

“He loved meeting new people and buying companies, and realising their potential was a defining part of his success.

“He had incredible financial nous and business knowledge and he made sure the people who worked with him or joined him were made to feel part of the family.

“He will be sadly missed by everyone at BRG and by his many friends and colleagues.”

Among those to pay tribute was Claude Littner, the well-known businessman and star of TV’s The Apprentice.

He said: “Every so often, not too often, you meet someone special. Tony Berry was special.

“He was always friendly, welcoming, funny, clever and a true gentleman. Friends for 30 years, wish it could have been longer.”

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