BUSINESS tycoon Eddy Shah was given a warm send-off on his last day as owner of Wiltshire Golf and Country Club, near Royal Wootton Bassett, which was put on sale for £3.5m.
Former newspaper entrepreneur Shah, 69, and his wife Jennifer, who was the general manager, decided last year to pass on the mantle after more than 10 years.
The couple came to Wiltshire 12 years ago from East Anglia where they owned The Suffolk, The Norfolk and the Essex golf courses.
They bought the 18-hole course and built a 58-bedroom hotel and leisure centre complete with swimming pool in the grounds. In the following years they bought another 95 acres for another nine holes.
On Thursday, a large group of club members gathered at the venue to pay tribute to the couple ahead of the Dunkley family taking over the complex yesterday.
Mr Shah said: “I’m very touched. But I know it really has been something that everybody has done together. The members stuck with me right at the beginning.
“We have created something between the staff and the members and I’m proud of it. I think this is one of the best facilities in the county.”
He said he had decided to sell up because the business had been hit by the recession, with fewer members and increasing running costs.
Mr Shah, who is best known as the man who brought new technology and colour to newspapers, said: “It’s been a struggle for three years to keep it going, as everybody in this business has.
“We were fortunate we got some very good people to buy it from us, who are I think going to take it on to the next level.
“I have done business all my life. After 10 years it needs new impetus. If you keep on running something over and over again, you lose direction, you lose energy. Even in newspapers I got out after 10 years.”
Mr Shah said the club itself did not need any further investment but felt the Dunkley family were the “perfect people” to take it forward as they had the appropriate skills and experience, including in golf and marketing.
He said he and Jennifer would continue to live in the village of Kington Langley, in Wiltshire, and would work with their son, Martyn, on the Wiltshire Leisure Village, a development of tourist homes near the golf course.
The eco-friendly homes are for those whose main residence is elsewhere, and about 25 of the intended 70 homes are still to be built and sold.
He said: “I’m quite looking forward to it.
“Building these was quite a big thing. The houses are halfway there anyway.
“It’s really going back to the drawing board and starting to build another business and that’s a thing I enjoy.”