Jackie and I, on behalf of all the Startrax team are deeply saddened to share the awful news that Mr John Gilburn, Managing Director Owlerton Stadium, passed away 'suddenly' yesterday [ Tuesday ] aged 65.
To Jackie and I, John was not simply our point of contact commercially to discuss rents/licensing etc, he became a 'friend' that we had worked with since 1998 when we first met at Belle Vue Stadium - I was asked to see John by the speedway promoter as we had a Kart track at the time and John was interested in developing one at Belle Vue. We had just helped Coventry open theirs at the time and my advice to John was it may not work due to intensity of use of the stadium for Greyhounds and speedway but made a flippant remark, it would be good for stock cars'. I had never met John before, his response was surprising, 'If you can get John Perrin [ speedway promoter ] to agree, let's try for it' - The planning process was intensive and expensive and John was hugely supportive and, without his support and entrepreneurialism there would never have been stock cars at Belle Vue. In his time as General Manager at Belle Vue he made a massive commercial impact, he drove the business hard with the venue becoming one of most profitable greyhound tracks in the UK and he also became Sales & Marketing Director. He resigned as GM early 2007 and I remember meeting John just prior to his departure for a cup of coffee and wishing him well wherever he was going for the future. He said with twinkle in his eye as we shook hands ' I have no doubt we will meet up again' which left me puzzled and, a few days later, it was announced he had been appointed Managing Director at Owlerton!
At Sheffield his enthusiasm and business accumen persuaded Dave Allan to provide further investment with the boxes and the new and enlarged restaurant, refurbishment of the Panorama Room, the new catering facilities, over all a multi million pound investment and more recently was the driver of a £5m further investment, only recently signed off.
John was a friend and I would say in our earlier days a 'mentor', he taught me a lot and hearing the news travelling back from a meeting last night came as a huge shock. His reputation within the Greyhound industry saw him appointed 'Chairman' of their association in January this year. He was a driven man and huge shoes to fill.
In recent years he married Rochelle and has had two children.
Our deepest sympathies are extended to Rochelle, family and the many people in the industry he had touched after over 25 years in the business and the impact he made within it. Also to Mr Allan and all the team at A&S Leisure who are an excellent successful and 'family business' which John was a big part of.
RIP John, Jackie and I will sadly miss you and fondly remember you and the many business up's and downs which always ended up friendly and constructive. A giant of a man, taken away in his prime.