Legendary Black Country developer and philanthropist Dr Roy Richardson was today made an Honorary Freeman of Sandwell.
And he immediately took the opportunity to ‘drive sheep’ through the borough as is one of his ceremonial rights as a Freeman.
Dr Richardson, who is 87, received the rare accolade in a ceremony at the Council House in Oldbury.
Members of his family, business representatives, councillors and dignitaries gave Roy a standing ovation at the ceremony after being introduced by Town Crier Adrian Holmes.
The Mayor of Sandwell Councillor Ahmadul Haque MBE presented Roy with a scroll and badge. It is the first time a business person has been awarded the freedom of Sandwell.
Roy has had a relationship with Sandwell since the age of 14 when he and his brother Don joined their father in his business based in Oldbury. Sadly Don passed away in 2007.
The premises in Dudley Road is still in the possession of the business which is family owned and run by Roy’s three sons.
Roy said: “I feel very proud and privileged to be here today. I left school at 14 and went to work for my father, I learnt the lesson of how much money was worth. We’ve had our ups and downs and more successes than failures.
“I am proud to be a Black Country businessman. I want to thank councillors for unanimously voting me to be the first businessman to have this award.”
Roy said this meant a lot to him because the award was from the local community. He added that it was good for the business community and also for teenagers today to see what can be achieved and what a private businessman can do.
Roy thanked his family for their support. He added: “I am sorry my brother Don is not here today, he played a very big part in making the business a success.”
Leader of Sandwell Council Steve Eling described Roy as an “exceptional person” who had never forgotten his roots in the Black Country and Sandwell.
He said Roy and Don Richardson had got stuck in to redeveloping sites that other people didn’t want to develop and that people in Sandwell and the Black Country had a lot to be thankful for from their developments.
Councillor Eling added: “Roy has changed the face of not only the Black Country but the wider West Midlands and further afield thanks to his success in the development industry. Not only is he a great businessman, he’s a real philanthropist. We proudly welcome him as an honorary freeman of Sandwell.”
Successfully selling second-hand and new commercial vehicles, Roy with his brother Don built a strong business that enabled them to diversify their interests into commercial development during the 1980s.
With over a million square feet of development within the greater Birmingham area, schemes like the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, the Fort Shopping Centre and Star City are landmark projects that carry the Richardson footprint which are testament to the entrepreneurial endeavour and ability that has set Roy apart from others.
Roy acts as an ambassador and patron of the family-owned and run multi-million pound investment business with interests in a number of countries around the world which is still based in Oldbury.
Not forgetting their roots, the company also supports many charities and causes. The Richardson Brothers Foundation supports local and national causes, including Macmillan Care and Support, Guide Dogs, Alzheimer’s Society, the Save the Children Fund and many other charities and sports clubs.
Given that seven members of the family have had an attachment to the military, it is not surprising that military charities have been beneficiaries over several decades.