Tributes have been paid to one of the “true gents” of the Birmingham business community who has this week lost his battle with cancer.
Ronnie Bowker was senior partner for the Midlands at Ernst & Young for nearly 15 years until earlier this year when he stepped down from the role due to his ill health.
South African born, Mr Bowker arrived in Birmingham in 1994 and was an audit partner at the firm for two years before taking the top job. During his 16 years in the city he became something of an adopted Brummie and as well as being one of the city’s most respected business leaders, was also active in the arts, sport and corporate responsibility.
Scott Halliday, managing partner UK & Ireland at Ernst & Young, paid tribute to Mr Bowker on behalf of all those who worked with him at the company.
He said: “Ronnie was an outstanding individual who spent the last 15 years of his career at Ernst & Young leading our Midlands business.
"He had a very positive influence on our people and made an exceptional contribution to the city of Birmingham and to the Midlands. His passion and commitment was extraordinary both to business and the arts with his long-term support for the CBSO, where he was chairman, and the Hippodrome.
"Ronnie lived his life with great dignity, huge determination and a never-ending consideration for others. He will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with Ronnie’s family at this difficult time.”
As well as overseeing a significant period of growth for Ernst & Young in the region, Mr Bowker was heavily involved with a number of professional organisations including the CBI West Midlands Regional Council, Birmingham Forward, the Birmingham Learning & Skills Council and Birmingham Professional DiverCity.
Birmingham Forward chairman Jackie Hendley, said: “Ronnie was an inspiration to the city, acting as a board member of Birmingham Forward from 1999 to 2005 and also undertaking the role of chair for 12 months of this tenure.
"Despite his illness, Ronnie continued tirelessly to campaign for the region. He will be sadly missed by all involved with Birmingham Forward.”
Her comments were echoed by Gary Cardin, head of Drivers Jonas Deloitte in Birmingham and chairman of the Colmore Business Improvement District, who felt the business community had lost one of its finest.
“I knew Ronnie in the early days from his time at Birmingham Forward and also as a senior business figure in the city and he was a true gent and I mean a real true gent,” he said.
“One of his great qualities was that whenever he asked a question or answered one it was always with a measurement and depth that felt as if it was coming from the heart as well as from his considerable business acumen.
"I think he has already been missed in the last few months as he moved out of the limelight and so his loss will be keenly felt and the city has certainly lost a respected figure.”
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of the Birmingham Chamber Group, added: “Ronnie has been a permanent and trusted fixture in the Birmingham business community for many years.
"He was a consistent contributor to all matters of business in region. He was a close associate of the chamber and always interested in the issues that were of importance to the wider business community and his sage comments will be sorely missed.”
As well as business, Mr Bowker was heavily involved in the arts as a previous chairman of the CBSO and as a current director of the Hippodrome Trust.
Hippodrome chief executive Stuart Griffiths said: “Ronnie was a hugely valued director of Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust who will be very sadly missed by everyone at the theatre.
"He was a great friend and supporter of the Hippodrome, seeing virtually every production and generously offering his experience, wisdom and expertise across a wide range of topics.”