East End boxer-cum-businessman George Walker dies aged 81
PUBLISHED: 15:00 28 March 2011 | UPDATED: 15:24 28 March 2011
He started off like any other aspiring young boxer but East End wheeler dealer George Walker ended life with a string of business ventures and a royal connection under his belt.
The Stepney-born tycoon died of a heart attack aged 81 in the South of France last week but certainly left his mark.
He was probably best known for pioneering north London shopping complex Brent Cross and the marriage between his daughter Sarah and Prince Philip’s cousin, the Marquess of Milford Haven.
Born the son of a £2-a-week drayman, Mr Walker left school at 14 to work as a porter at Billingsgate fish market.
After a brief stint in the RAF, the call of the ring beckoned and he made a name for himself as light heavyweight the ‘Stepney Steamroller’ and won the British Amateur Boxing Championship.
But an injury put an end to his fighting days and left him on the wrong side of the law.
A friendship with gang leader Billy Hill, who was linked to the Krays, led to him serving nine months in jail for theft.
The plucky fighter later got himself back on the straight and narrow and married Southend girl Jean, who he went on to have three children with.
They bought a share in a petrol station but it was training his brother Billy back in the boxing ring that led him to the big bucks.
The pair bought a chain of cafes before launching Brent Walker, a thriving leisure-cum-property business.
Later ventures included stakes in Hackney’s greyhound racetrack, Piccadilly Circus’s Trocadero complex and film company Goldcrest.
The mogul had by this point swapped the East End for Pall Mall and then Knightsbridge but was determined not to lose his working class links, famously insisting he still did his own DIY.
Things turned sour in the early Nineties when Mr Walker was made bankrupt and ousted as chief executive of Brent Walker.
Another brush with the law followed, leading to him facing trial for false accounting, but his name was cleared.
He bounced back once again opening a computer betting chain in Russia.
Courting controversy and defying the odds time and time again, Mr Walker was said to have retained his steely charm and eye for an opportunity.
The fighter’s spirit clearly never waned.