Computer entrepreneur and aviation enthusiast Sir Peter Rigby is spreading his wings. He has bailed out Coventry Airport, snapping it up and saving from months of inactivity.
His aviation group, Patriot Aerospace, bought the airport and gave it the promise of becoming a vibrant hub once again. Before Sir Peter Rigby acquired it, the airport had been closed for months after the previous owner was wound up with spiralling debts.
And just weeks after the acquisition Patriot agreed a £4 million contract with Serco for air traffic services. More than 30 jobs have already been created, a new aviation business – Heliflight – is operational and more than 400 jobs in tenant businesses associated with the airport have been secured.
All good news for Sir Peter, who was also pleased that one of his other business ventures – Mallory Court Hotel in Warwickshire – retained its prized Michelin star.
The founder and head of technology giant Specialist Computers (SCH) has three hotels as part of his Eden hotel group: Mallory Court, the upmarket and exclusive Kings Hotel in Chipping Campden, and Buckland Tout-Saints in Kingsbridge, Devon.
Sir Peter, aged 67, has a stake in Birmingham-based Specialist Computer Holdings – Europe’s largest independent technology group – worth more £300 million. Sir Peter founded the company in 1975 with just £2,000 in cash. It now turns over more than £2.5 billion and has recently completed a £20 million data centre alongside SCH’s headquarters in Tyseley.
The company also spent £5 million on a new re-cycling centre, giving away free eco-friendly printers and recycling boxes to encourage other companies to adopt the same ideas. SCH also acquired Kavanagh – a market leader in IT consultancy and infrastructure.
A qualified fixed wing and helicopter pilot, Sir Peter’s aviation group is based in Gloucester and Cranfield. As well as Coventry Airport, it operates flying schools, charter operations and helicopter maintenance, indulging Sir Peter’s passion for all mechanical things that fly. He also holds Cessna and Schweizer distributorships.
He added to his aviation interests with the acquisition of London Helicopter Services Ltd – a specialist helicopter charter and engineering company based in Redhill, Surrey and Enniskillen in Northern Ireland.
SCH provides European blue chip companies and government organisations, including HM Revenue and Customs, BAE Systems, Heinz, Fiat and DaimlerChrysler, with desktop services, computer networks and products. It is a successful organisation, with more than 6000 staff and over 80 offices in cities across Europe. It has 800 engineers in the UK alone.
SCH’s UK operation is also its European headquarters. After 35 years of profitable growth it has a leading position in the UK market serving organisations across the public and private sectors.
Sir Peter’s son James, 40, took over as managing director of SCH’s UK operations a couple of years ago, having risen through the ranks. His other son Steven is also a senior board director.
Patriot Aviation is the sole UK representative for Gulfstream. The company is also the UK and Northern Ireland agent for Bell Helicopters. Patriot also provides maintenance services and training.
Sir Peter devotes much of his time and money to charity. The Rigby Foundation Charitable Trust supports child related causes and children’s hospices. It also donates to charities for the aged, either with cash support or by providing IT equipment, training and expertise.
Sir Peter was knighted in the Queens Jubilee Honours for his contribution to information technology and business. He also holds honorary doctorates from UCE and Aston University.