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 up for sale for £3.5m.

Former newspaper entrepreneur Shah, 69, and 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 courses.

They bought the 18-hole course and built a 58-bedroom hotel and leisure centre in the grounds. Later, they bought another 95 acres for nine more holes.

Cub members gathered at the venue to say farewell to the couple last Thursday, ahead of the Dunkley family taking over.

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 because the business had been hit by the recession, with fewer members and higher running costs.

Mr Shah, best known as the man who brought new technology and colour to newspapers, said: “It’s been a struggle for three years. 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.

“After 10 years, it needs new impetus. If you keep on running something over and over again, you lose direction, you lose energy.”

Mr Shah said the Dunkleys were the “perfect people” to take it forward as they had the skills and experience. Their track record is in golf, hotels, marketing, conferences and hospitality in the UK and South Africa.

They spent two years looking for a UK business and settled on the Wiltshire for its potential.

Mr Shah said he and his wife would continue to live in Kington Langley and work with their son, Martyn, on the Wiltshire Leisure Village, a development of tourist homes near the golf course.

About 25 of the planned 70 eco-friendly holiday homes are still to be built and sold.

* At the Old Bailey in December, Eddie Shah – under his real name of Selim Shah – pleaded not guilty to raping a schoolgirl in the 1990s. He denied six counts of raping a girl under 16 and is due back at the London court, for a pre-trial review, on March 27.