George Walker dies

30/03/2011

One of the most colourful characters to become involved in the UK gaming machine business, George Walker, died on March 22 aged 81.

Walker, a boxer of some talent, was to become involved in gangland in London but in later years became a talented businessman who went one step too far and became bankrupt and arrested.

He was the Walker behind Brent-Walker, a combination of several businesses, including one in the coin machine industry and a spin-off from that, Brent Leisure, still trades successfully in London although there has been no family connection for many years.

George Walker, at the height of Brent Walker, was valued at £50m personally and his business at £250m. At one time he owned the Trocadero in London and the Lyceum development, the Le Touquet casino and Brighton Marina. He had many hotels and property businesses in other countries. He bought breweries in the UK and at one time had a chain of 1,200 pubs. It was a successful attempt to buy two major bookmaking chains, William Hill and Mecca in the late 1980s that was to prove Walker’s undoing and his business interests quickly went downhill. The group collapsed owing £1.4bn in late 1990. A fraud investigation followed and he faced a long trial but was cleared.

Walker subsequently opened betting shops in Moscow to which he had horse and greyhound racing transmitted by satellite from the UK. It was from greyhound racing that the business name came. He bought the Brent Cross greyhound racing track, which led to Brent Walker.

His boxing career peaked as British amateur light heavyweight champion in 1951 and a professional career followed, winning 11 of his 14 pro fights, but his boxing world collapsed after a bloody defeat at the hands of Welshman Dennis Powell. He became involved in the underworld in London and a period in gaol before he managed his younger brother Billy as a boxer. Billy – the Blond Bomber – became British amateur Heavyweight Champion in 1962. George opened London’s first discotheque, Dolly’s in Jermyn Street, then with Billy opened a chain of restaurants named Billy’s Baked Potato.

It was after that period that his Brent Walker period came into being, but George was always up for anything and that included a film career. He met actress Joan Collins in 1977 and backed two infamous movies for her, The Stud and The Bitch.

By David Snook

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