Burnley car empire boss Ian Skipper dies

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IAN SKIPPER, the Burnley car dealer who was given his father's firm at the age of 21 and built up an empire of Ford dealerships, has died aged 73.

Skippers of Burnley was one of the major car dealerships in town for many years, making Ian Skipper a millionaire. He sold his business in 1972 and later went to live in Barbados.

When he bowed out of the firm he gave a dinner dance to say thank you to those who had worked for him in the 15 years he had run the firm founded in a tiny garage in Nairne Street in 1936.

In 1946 the firm moved to Oxford Road and by the 1970s had become a group, employing more than 1,000 people. Three years after Mr Skipper's departure the company moved its headquarters to Eastern Avenue and in 1993 was bought out by the Sanderson Bramall Motor Group.

While in Barbados, Mr Skipper and his wife, Penny, became international entrepreneurs in engineering firms and a merchant bank in the 1980s.

When the family returned to England, Mr Skipper, who was born in Barrowford, devoted much of his time to philanthropic work. He was awarded the OBE for his charity work which included underwriting Childline for its first year.

One of his earliest charitable involvements included his interest in archaeology, and led him to help create some of Britain's most successful visitor attractions.

He supported Magnus Magnusson's efforts to excavate the Viking city of Jorvik at York. He transformed the site into a tourist attraction visited by more than a million people a year. Five years later, in 1984, he was instrumental in setting up the Jorvik Viking Centre, where, to date, 15 million people have taken a "time car" back through the ages to experience the sights and smells of life in a Viking settlement.

His vision transformed York Archaeological Trust's income and made York an even more popular tourist city, and, in recognition, Mr Skipper was given the British Archaeological Awards Golden Trowel "Award of Awards" in 1998.

The success of the Jorvik project led Mr Skipper to use his same creative team to establish Heritage Projects, which revealed the life and history of the university world of Oxford.

He became a Domus Fellow of St Cross College after giving donations to build a new wing and the Ian Skipper Conference Centre.

A successor firm to Heritage Projects, Latterly Continuum, now manages some of the UK's most successful visitor attr-actions.

Ian Skipper leaves his wife and two daughters.