Youth charity founder and former businessman Sir Jack Petchey dies aged 98

Philanthropist Sir Jack Petchey, whose charitable foundation helps thousands of young people achieve their dreams each year, has died aged 98.

Sir Jack died on Thursday at his home in east London, his foundation said.

The businessman set up the Jack Petchey foundation in 1999 to provide opportunities for young people aged between 11 and 25 across London and Essex, through programmes offering volunteering and internships and the promotion of sport, science and art.

The charity has invested more than £170 million since then and runs the Jack Petchey Achievement Award Scheme, which provides grants to youngsters at youth organisations and secondary schools.

Some 12,000 winners receive a share of £3.5 million through the scheme each year.

Sir Jack received a knighthood in the 2016 New Year Honours for his work through the foundation, which supports hundreds of thousands of young people annually.

He was also involved in the world of football, and was appointed director of West Ham United in 1978 before purchasing Watford FC from Sir Elton John in 1990.

Sir Jack was born on July 19 1925 to a working class family in the east end of London, left school at 13 and joined the Royal Navy in 1943.

He started a taxi service and then founded a car hire company in 1948 – the beginnings of a career in property through which he built a multimillion pound empire.

It was through his property company Petchey Holdings that Sir Jack was able to provide substantial funding for his foundation.

The charity said in a statement he will be “greatly missed by friends and family and by the many young people, teachers and youth leaders whose lives” had been impacted by the work of his foundation.

Sir Jack Petchey in a wheelchair
Sir Jack Petchey was knighted for his charity work (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

It continued: “From humble beginnings, Sir Jack left school aged 13 without any qualifications.

“Through his entrepreneurial spirit he became one of Britain’s most successful businessmen.

“This enabled him to achieve his ambition of giving young people the opportunities and confidence he lacked as a child.

“As he always told young people ‘If you think you can, you can’.

“His charitable trust, The Jack Petchey Foundation, has to date invested over £170 million in youth projects. Messages have already started pouring in from the young people and families whose lives he touched.”

He was made an OBE in 2004 and a CBE in 2011 by Queen Elizabeth II, both for charitable services.