Tributes have been paid to Don Richardson, one half of legendary Black Country developers, the Richardson twins, who has died after a long illness aged 77.
Mr Richardson is credited with helping to change the face of the West Midlands. The company he founded with his twin brother, which now trades as Richardsons Capital, has been responsible for a raft of regeneration projects across the region, the most notable being the Merry Hill shopping centre.
Peter Mathews, president of Black Country Chamber, said: "Don was a solid Black Country man of the old school and along with his brother was instrumental in modernising the Black Country.
"They can justifiably be said to have put the new Black Country on the map. Don played his part in keeping the identity of the area recognised for its strong history and entrepreneurial skills.
"He will be missed, particularly by members of the business community. It was always a pleasure to be in his company and to share with him his views and enthusiasm."
Ian Pearson, Science Minister and MP for Dudley South, said: "Don and Roy Richardson made a terrific contribution to the Black Country over the years.
"The transformation of the former Round Oak Steelworks site into the Merry Hill and Waterfront developments in my constituency was due to the twins’ vision and drive – a fitting legacy for Don.
"He embodied all the best attributes of this special part of the world – hard work, innovation, loyalty and pride in his roots. Don was a genuine Black Country man with a deeply held desire to see the area flourish. He will be sadly missed."
Mr Richardson, whose brother Roy is the elder by ten minutes, was born in 1930 in Harts Hill, adjacent to Brierley Hill. He left Wrights Lane School, Old Hill, at 14 and plunged into the business world.
His partnership with Roy was so close they even shared the same desk. Their trademark was hard work, commitment, passion, leadership, positive decision-making and a clear focus.
Never suffering fools gladly the twins always demanded the highest level of performance, driving their team and partners relentlessly. They took pride in always completing projects on time and to budget.
Both worked long hours and there was total trust and empathy between them. Weekends would be spent visiting sites and projects so that on the Monday morning they could chase up partners, contractors and suppliers, knowing the latest and most up to date picture.
From running a general trading and haulage business, they switched to property development when they took on the challenge of transforming the 300 acre former Round Oak Steelworks complex at Brierley Hill, turning it into the internationally known Merry Hill shopping centre.
It was a huge challenge but the derelict and highly contaminated site, just a few hundred yards from the twins birthplace, was turned into a major retail, office and leisure development.
Nearly 20 years on Merry Hill directly employs more than 10,000 people and is reckoned to provide economic benefits to 40,000 more.
Former Black Country Chamber chief executive Ian Brough, a close associate of the brothers, said: "Having come from lowly roots in the Black Country, experiencing tough and difficult times, the twins never forgot their friends and stayed true to their principles, always a supporter and defender of small business.
"Their friendship and loyalty was a prize worth having. Don Richardson was always a man to have at your side and no one better to have in the trench to fight with you. The respect and admiration gained amongst the business community and relationships established over the last 70 years will mean that he will be missed by many."
Mr Richardson is survived by his wife Ann. The funeral is private, with a memorial service to follow.