A controversial former football club owner who was once a safe-cracker has died.
Businessman George Reynolds took over Darlington in 1999 and set about building the club a 25,000-seat stadium with the dream of becoming a Premier League side.
But he was jailed for tax evasion in 2005 and Darlington eventually dropped out of the league and has since reformed as a fan-owned club.
Born in Sunderland in 1936, Reynolds had a tough childhood and got involved in crime, and served a series of jail terms, including for safe-cracking.
Later in life he made his fortune from business, including a successful kitchen surface factory in County Durham which in 2000 saw him placed 112th in the Sunday Times Rich List.
Reynolds was a controversial figure, and was known to confront his critics personally.
Peter Barron, former editor of the Darlington-based Northern Echo newspaper, said in a statement: “There is no doubt that George Reynolds was an extraordinary and colourful character with a truly great story to tell about how he went from petty crook to millionaire businessman and chairman of Darlington Football Club.
“There are those who enjoyed his company, found him entertaining, and admired him for his self-belief, determination, and achievements in business.
“However, there is also no hiding from the fact that he was a criminal who resorted to bullying when he didn’t get his own way.”
Broadcaster Paul “Goffy” Gough was a friend of the businessman and paid tribute on Facebook.
He wrote: “Those days with George on Century Radio were the best fun ever.
“I have also loved our lengthy chats in recent weeks via the phone.
“Rest in peace.”
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