Tributes have been paid to businessman Peter Boizot, known as Mr Peterborough.
Peter grew up in Peterborough, and made a huge impact on cultural, business and sporting life in the city during his life.
He went to The King’s School as a pupil, founded national restaurant chain Pizza Express, saved Peterborough United and The Broadway Theatre and ran the Great Northern Hotel.
Leader of Peterborough City Council John Holdich described Peter as ‘a great character.’
He said: “Peter was a man of his word, who always put his money where his mouth was.
“He had a great affection for the city - he saved the football club and the Broadway at one time.
“He will be a very sad loss to the city. He was a great character - Peterborough has a lack of characters, and he certainly was one.”
Fellow businessman Rinaldo Fasulo, who bought the Broadway Theatre from Mr Boizot, described him as a ‘great Peterborian.’
Upon hearing of Peter’s death, an emotional Rinaldo said: “He will be greatly missed. He was a great Peterborian.
“I met him many years ago and he would invite me to the football. He spoke Italian better than me.
“I only saw him a few weeks ago, and he was asking about the Broadway Theatre.
“He was a really nice guy.
“As a businessman he was someone I looked up to, as someone who showed me how to be successful.
“He told me how he started selling horse shoes in wheelbarrows.
“I’ve got a lump in my throat talking about him. He was a great man.”
Matthew Reville, who helped Peter write his autobiography ‘Mr Pizza and All That Jazz’ in 2014, said:
“Peter had a larger-than-life personality and he committed to everything in his life with an inspirational vigour.
“While he would be described as a ‘businessman’, money was never his core motivation. He dedicated his life to pursuing his genuine passions, and the irrepressible work ethic he put into everything he did brought great successes.
“The things Peter was proudest of about Pizza Express were not that it became a global chain - it was that he normalised vegetarian options on the high street, and that he gave jobs to countless homeless people struggling to get back on their feet.
“In his later years, Peter re-invested the money he made from his various businesses back into his first love, his hometown. It’s no surprise his nickname was ‘Mr Peterborough’ and he spent millions that he never planned to recoup on building community hubs, like Posh, the Broadway Theatre and the Great Northern Hotel.
“Peter’s life was littered with acts of kindness that you wouldn’t expect from such a successful businessman, and he will be very sorely missed.”
Toby Wood, from Peterborough Civic Society, said: “Peter Boizot was a true son of Peterborough. He was born and died in the city.
“In between he was internationally renowned as the founder of Pizza Express and nationally known as an entrepreneur and jazz aficionado.
“Locally his legacy is immense, including investing substantially in Peterborough United, the Broadway theatre and the Great Northern hotel. “Peterborough Civic Society recognises his unique contribution to Peterborough life. In ten years’ time, in 2028, there will undoubtedly be a blue plaque to commemorate his achievements.”
A spokesperson for the Cathedral said: “It is with great sadness that we received the news of Peter Boizot’s death. Peter was a lifelong friend and supporter of the Cathedral, a former chorister and a resident within the Precincts for many years. He will be greatly missed both here at the cathedral and in the city he loved so much.”
Former Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson Tweeted: “Peter Boizot was a wonderful ambassador for #Peterborough: Cultured, charming, charismatic, community-minded and a fantastic businessman and fine philanthropist. It was a pleasure to have known him. Goodbye Mr Peterborough.”