Former Peterborough United owner and city businessman Peter Boizot had died.
Mr Boizot’s sister, Clementine Allen, confirmed he had died aged 89 at his home in Peterborough yesterday.
Mrs Allen said her brother opened the first Pizza Express as a takeaway after “roaming about Europe and realising there wasn’t any decent pizza about”.
He took on the Wardour Street premises on a peppercorn rent, imported an oven and sold slices of pizza wrapped in serviettes to customers, she said.
More premises quickly followed and, alongside Italian designer Enzo Apicella, he stripped away stuffy dining in favour of the chain’s signature marble table tops and clean lines.
After stepping down from the board of Pizza Express in 1996, he pledged to remain involved in the firm as president.
In 1993 he bought the Great Northern Hotel in Peterborough.
Just last month he was recognised by the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association with an award for his outstanding contribution to the industry.
Mrs Allen said: “He was a very interesting personality. He was a man of many parts and he did many things. He liked to be thought of as at the centre of his businesses and he had the loyalty of those who worked for him.”
Mr Boizot never married and did not have children.
Peter Boizot was born in Walton, Peterborough, on November 16, 1929. He went to St Mark’s School, in Gladstone Street, before becoming head boy at the King’s School, in Park Road.
He was accepted to study History at St Catharine’s College at Cambridge University.
He then spent 10 years abroad teaching English in Paris, working for Nestle’s publicity department in Switzerland, and in the news photo department of Associated Press, in Rome.
Peter opened the first Pizza Express in March 1965, after failing to find anywhere in London serving Italian food. The chain now has 320 outlets in the UK and 61 aboard.
In 1986, Peter was awarded an MBE in recognition of political and public service.
In the 1990s, Peter invested heavily in businesses in Peterborough buying the Great Northern Hotel in 1993, the former Odeon cinema in 1996 and Peterborough United Football Club in 1997.
He was made a Freeman of the City in 2008.
On his own website, he described himself as “an entrepreneur with a lifelong passion for jazz music, a football club chairman, the captain of a merchant ship, a chorister, jazz club owner, philanthropist, traveller, and much more”.
A statement from the club said: “The Pizza Express founder was a major part of the success in the late 1990s/early 2000s when Posh secured promotion at Wembley in 2000. Everybody at the football club would like to express our condolences and deepest sympathies to the family at this very sad time.”
Current chairman Darragh MacAnthony added on Twitter: “Very sad news, Peter a lovely man and always a gentlemen whenever I met with him or saw him at games. Best wishes to his family.”
Shaun Rollinson, general manager at The Great Northern Hotel, said: “He left quite a legacy for the current owners - they were big shiees to fill. We continue to run the hotel to the same standards he would like - we have kept the character and tradition he would want.
“His sister still stays with us, and we still have people working here that worked under him.
“He was a real character - his parties here were legendary,
“He was a proper businessman, but he wasn’t in it just to make money for himself - he put so much back to the community.”
Zoe Bowley, MD at PizzaExpress said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that Peter Boizot passed away on 5th December 2018.
“In his 89 years, this remarkable entrepreneur achieved an astonishing amount, not just within the dining industry, but across music, sport, and charity as well.
“He launched a culinary revolution with the first PizzaExpress in 1965, introducing delicious pizza and casual dining to the UK, inspired by his travels in Italy.
“His philanthropic work was renowned, raising £2million for the Venice in Peril fund and he inspired the company to continue this charitable mission. “Peter’s spirit and vision to bring great pizza to the UK and beyond, and his passion for good food and good times, will live on.
“We will miss him dearly. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time.”