Businessman who campaigned to bring NEC to Solihull dies aged 89 - The Solihull Observer
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11th Aug, 2022

Businessman who campaigned to bring NEC to Solihull dies aged 89

Sarah Mason 17th Mar, 2022

A BUSINESS leader who was part of the team which brought the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) to Solihull has died at the age of 89.

John Warburton died on March 3 in Cowes, Isle of Wight, where he moved in 2020 to be nearer his family.

In a career distinguished by promoting British business abroad, the former chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry (now Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce – GBCC) was awarded a CBE for services to exports in the New Year’s Honours in 1983.

He was also responsible for embracing Birmingham’s Asian community into the Chamber in the wake of the Handsworth riots in 1987, when the Institute of Asian Businesses (as it was originally called) was created.

He joined Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1959 after working for London Chamber of Commerce following National Service in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

John was appointed the Chamber’s chief executive in 1979 and served until 1994.

During the Chamber’s campaign to bring the NEC to the area, John wrote a paper for the Parliamentary Estimates Committee, which was instrumental in winning support for the bid.

John remained active after his retirement and chaired the Birmingham Macmillan Cancer Relief Appeal, providing additional Macmillan cancer nurses in the city.

He was also deputy chairman to the late Gary Allen on the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Appeal.

Leading the tributes his daughter, Moira James, said: “My father was always exceedingly proud to have served the Chamber for so many years and to have contributed widely to the fortunes of businesses based in the Birmingham area.”

Henrietta Brealey, the chief executive of the GBCC, said: “John’s contribution to the Chamber was critical at a time when the promotion of Birmingham abroad was essential and he turned the Chamber into a leading force in that field as well as helping to bring the NEC to the city.”

He is survived by his sister Beryl Warburton, his daughter Moira James, her husband Julian and grandchildren Christopher and Dominic.

A funeral service will be held at The Oratory, Birmingham, on April 5 at 12.30pm, followed by a reception in his memory at Edgbaston Golf Club.

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