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Brian Roper: Businessman who gave more than he took

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 08, 2014

By Lynne Fernquest

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Businessman and benefactor Brian Roper had a simple philosophy – it is better to give than to receive.

And despite being diagnosed with an incurable cancer last year he continued to appeal to the business people of Bath. He wanted them to donate a small percentage of their profits every year to deserving city causes.

Brian was only asking that every business do what he and his wife Margaret had been doing for more than 30 years as owners of the successful bathroom business Roper Roads. Over 30 years they donated £6 million through the Roper Charitable Trust.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Roper Family Charitable Trust has been a lifeline for dozens of arts and health charities in Bath, and donated £228,000 in 2012 alone.

The Ropers have also been keen supporters of the City of Bath College – which named a building after them, and of the University of Bath. Among the charities and organisations around the city which they have helped over the years have been the Forever Friends Appeal at the RUH, the Golden-Oldies, Zenith Theatre Company, the Mozartfest, Bath Festivals, the Holburne Museum, the Theatre Royal, Dorothy House – where Mr Roper died at the weekend – and Julian House.

At his last public event – at the Guildhall – Brian and Margaret were made Freemen of the city he loved.

Although many prominent people spoke in praise of the Ropers, it was a measure of the man that he chose to use his speech to give businesses one final push. Although he was too fragile to deliver the speech – his words were as steely determined as the man himself.

When he was given Lifetime Achievement award last September at The Bath Chronicle Business Awards, he said: "We do what we do because I believe businesses should contribute to their communities.

"It's not enough for them just to pay their taxes. Businesses are individual wealth centres and they should take some of the load off the state."

As well as a successful businessman Brian Roper had also been a Bath City councillor, member of the University of Bath Council, chair of the trustees of the St Stephen's Millennium Green Committee and president of Bath Liberal Democrats.

In 2009, he was given an honorary degree by the university. At the time Professor Chris Riddoch, of the university's School for Health, said in his oration: "Brian Roper is a very different type of businessman to the 'profit at all costs' stereotype.

"While of course any businessman must seek profit, Brian is possibly unique in the way in which he uses his business success to bring business and society closer together.

"In other words he ensures that his business re-invests in the community which feeds it. He is a truly principled business operation."

He was appointed MBE in 2008. His funeral will be held at Bath Abbey next Thursday.

Mr Roper leaves a wife of more than 50 years, Margaret, sons Mark and Paul and three grandchildren.

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