Bluecoat entrepreneur dies

Graham Parr
Graham Parr
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Preston-born entrepreneur Graham Parr, who rose from Bluecoat to Pontins’ boss, has died aged 67.

Mr Parr, who helped found Arena Leisure, had wide-ranging business interests and was a key player in changing the face of British racing and betting.

The former Blackpool Grammar School pupil was the first chief executive of race course group Arena and had a long business association with Lancashire business tycoon and PNE owner Trevor Hemmings.

He had joined Pontins as a trainee manager, becoming regional manager and later managing director of Warner Holidays.

Four years after leaving Pontins, he returned when he and Mr Hemmings bought the company. They sold it again in 1989 and Mr Parr stayed as managing director until 1994.

But his passion for the company remained and in 2008 he bought the company back, before it went into administration and was sold in 2011.

By then he had made his mark at Arena Leisure too - where he again teamed up with Mr Hemmings and by the time he stepped down from his top post at Arena in 2001 the company owned six racecourses, forming the foundation of the Arena Racing Company.

He was a non-executive director of Arena until 2004. He died on Monday.