Trevor Abbott was extremely generous, loving and kind. He was devoted to his children and always made time to speak to his family. He was a great ambassador for Cranleigh School. Trevor was extraordinarily ambitious and wanted the best for everyone he liked. He was one of the most talented deal makers in business and played a key part in the remarkable international success of the Virgin Group.
He was always competitive and enjoyed his sports, always striving for consistency and perfection. His loyalty to causes and people he believed in were exceptional. He had a dry, wicked sense of humour and was a friend to so many.
Most of us here are aware of several instances of Trevor's generosity and his many kindnesses. This often went way beyond normal levels and on many occasions was cloaked in privacy and anonymity.
He dreamed of one day starting his own charitable foundation and in later life devoting considerable time to it. In the meantime, with his many commitments, he contributed to so many individual and collective causes. Many of us have witnessed or been told of so many acts of generosity, often involving substantial sums. But I do not believe that it would be Trevor's wish to reveal details. However, I would like to single out his contributions to the Wooden Spoon Society as council member and keen supporter. You will recall this was the chosen charity in lieu of flowers at his funeral.
Suffice to say that I believe that if all of us here today accumulated all our knowledge of his generosity, we still would not know one- half of what he did. And he never spent much on himself. Trevor was synonymous with the word selflessness.
Trevor was devoted to his children and was very kind to his family. Despite many other pressures, he thought the world of and always made time for his family. He spoke at least every day to his five children, Ben, Cherry, Candi, Tristan and Megan. The older ones grew to regard Trevor as a friend as well as their Daddy. He adored them also cared about children generally, and there are many instances where he showed many kindnesses and concerns towards them.
It is fitting that this memorial service is here at Cranleigh School. Trevor had close links here for over 30 years as a schoolboy, Old Cranleighan tennis captain and recently as a Governor.
Like Trevor and mainly thanks to him, I am the proud parent of sons and daughters who flourished here.
His contribution to Cranleigh School has been considerable, even disrupting a school speech day. In the year he became a School Governor, he opted not to sit on stage with the headmaster and other Governors but to sit at the back of the auditorium. During the speech by the guest speaker, a mobile phone rang and Trevor was seen raiding his pockets to turn it off.
Trevor was bright, articulate and a brilliant negotiator. For those who had worked closely with Trevor, his formidable skills as a businessman were obvious. His relaxed approach could give the impression of someone who was too "laid- back", but under the easy- going exterior was a razor- sharp intelligence, vast experience and a way with people which made him an exceptional deal- maker. He was someone of the old school, for whom "my word is my bond" was a guiding principle, and would always try to adhere to the spirit of an agreement rather than hide behind semantics. He successfully conceived and negotiated many international partnerships, and was held in great respect by many of his opposite numbers.
On several occasions he completed some very astute transactions. He would often ask for almost anything he could get and he often got it. He was brave and often stoical but always truthful. When he was seven years old in Jamaica and playing "tail on the donkey", he asked for the blindfold to be adjusted as he could see just a little bit.
In the twelve years that Trevor was Virgin's group finance and then managing director, Virgin became one of the most well known privately owned companies in the world with an exceptionally strong brand name. Much of this was attributable to the inimitable and mercurial Richard Branson and other colleagues, but key people in Virgin and its trading partners know of Trevor's close working relationship with his colleague and friend, Richard, and of Trevor's outstanding contribution and influence in keeping Virgin on the right track. This was unstinting through a myriad of projects and deals. Richard and Trevor were the same age but were total opposites with Trevor a quiet, intensely private man who shunned publicity. The only exception I know was when I persuaded Trevor to write a fascinating article on his career and relationship with Richard for the private circulation of 12,000 fellow alumni of KPMG.
Richard and Trevor often appeared to be telepathic. Once when playing golf in Richmond, a Virgin plane from Tokyo flew overhead bound for Heathrow. Trevor remarked that Richard was on the plane and envisaged a call in about four minutes once the plane had landed. Before completing the hole, Trevor's phone rang. Sure enough it was Richard. We laughed as Trevor went scurrying into bushes to avoid being spotted breaking the rules banning the use of mobiles on the golf course.
Trevor was always competitive and keen on sport. A damaged knee curtailed many of his skiing, squash and tennis activities. He turned to golf and was a proud member of Wisley. Several of us have enjoyed many happy hours playing golf with Trevor with his shots of brilliance intermingled with the opposite which often made him frustrated. Anecdotes of his golf playing career including appearances in the U.S., France, Germany, Japan are legendary and far too many to mention today.
Trevor was approachable. He was always clear on his views. Sometimes they did not always accord with the views of others and he could be awkward.
When you became a friend of his, you felt he was a friend for life. He was forgiving and gave many people opportunities in life. He often spent the time to teach them and explain what was needed.
He was great to work for and with. He was fair and, amazingly with the heavy number of matters always in progress, he didn't forget much.
Trevor was a humorous speaker and could have been a Poet Laureate.
In conclusion, I am grateful to the more than forty people who I have spoken to in the last week or so in preparing this tribute. I am sorry I could not speak to more and apologise for the many items I have omitted to mention. Interestingly, not one word said to me was in contradiction with any other which speaks volumes of his straightness. You knew where you were with Trevor and he was always his own man.
We give thanks today to the unique, remarkable and individualistic Trevor Abbott as a loyal father, husband, son, brother, colleague, business associate and friend. Trevor, with his many qualities, touched us all with his energy for life and leaves us with so many wonderful memories.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Our hearts are with you all.
You will always be remembered with great affection.
Words weaker than you grief would make,
Grief more, 'twere better I should cease.
Although myself could almost take,
The place of him who seeps in peace.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Best wishes from a fellow Wooden Spooner who enjoyed your company greatly.
He was quite simply the most honest, straight forward, honourable, trustworthy, intelligent and decent man that I have had the privilege to work with.
I'm still having problems coming to terms with Trevor' tragic and untimely death and the reality that I will not be seeing or speaking to him ever again. In fact I keep getting flashes of in-depth conversations, entertaining meetings and treasured words of wisdom that for me will always be a testimony to the stature of the man.
Trevor's friends and colleagues at Cranleigh School were numbed by the news of his death. As an OC and a parent of four children at or already through the school, he was an immensely valuable member of the Governing Body.
He was a shining example of an old adage - if you have an important job to be done urgently, give it to a busy man. He had a knack of being available when needed.
His relaxed and laid-back manner belied a quick mind and outstanding business acumen, as befitted a man who was Richard Branson's Managing Director for several years.
He regularly attended Speech Day but politely refused to sit on the platform, claiming that his position as a parent took priority over his Governing Body duties. Invariably, he stood at the back of the Speech Hall where he was caught out just once in a quiet moment by the ring of the telephone in his pocket; it generated a rare flash of panic. Trevor had become a good friend and trusted colleague. He was enjoyable company and a generous host at his beloved Wisley Golf Club.
We are hugely grateful for his work and support on the Governing Body. His lateral-thinking meant that he often came at a subject from a different angle, providing a stimulating influence on the debate. He had become increasingly involved as a working member of the Building and Estates Committee and he had agreed to be a member of the Appeal Committee, both of which were working towards the provision of a Sports Hall at the School.
Trevor was simply a lovely man and he will be sorely missed at Cranleigh. Our heartfelt sympathy goes to his family.
My dear friend you will be sadly missed by me, at our golf events, where I have had the pleasure of partnering you on many occasions, at our industry social events, where we enjoyed the odd drink together, thank goodness I don't play cards!
Trevor, it was a privilege to have known you. I cannot find words to express how sorry I am that you have gone. I hope you have found peace.
I had the privilege to know and work with Trevor since he joined Virgin, and found him to be a very private person although clearly his family meant the world to him.
In 1995 my youngest son Adam was diagnosed as having cancer and on hearing the news, Trevor was very upset. Throughout Adams treatment, Trevor was a constant support - always taking the time out from his hectic schedule to ask how things were progressing and if there was anything he could do to help.
After Adam lost his battle to overcome the illness, Trevor shared in our grief and at every opportunity since, has been there for us. As a family we will never forget the support and kindness Trevor showed, which meant so much. We pray that he is now at peace.
I would like to pay tribute to Trevor as a business colleague and friend, it was an education and a pleasure to work with Trevor as colleague and partner. His tenacity and integrity saved Virgin on many a dark day and his energy and enthusiasm worked equally well when business was good.
There are many people who have made Virgin what it is today but Trevor can take more credit than most, and this is a real lasting achievement.
My most lasting personal memory of Trevor was on the tennis court where he displayed many of his finest characteristics, despite both being fiercely competitive, I remember laughing more often than crying. I don't remember who won, we always disagreed.
The very many Cranleighans, past and present, who knew Trevor were deeply shocked by his untimely death. It must have been his sometime father-in-law, Talbot Bashall, a man hugely committed to all things Cranleighan, who first instilled Trevor his love for the School. While he only spent two brief years at Cranleigh, Trevor's valete notes his prowess at tennis, and that he left 'to go into Chartered Accountancy'. The business career which followed will be well documented elsewhere, but nothing pleased him more than his enormous success enabled him to put his own children through Cranleigh and, the ultimate accolade, to be invited to join the Board of Governors, where his breezy, direct style and business acumen were of immense value.
Trevor was at great pains to divorce business and personal connections. Two years ago, we suggested that Virgin might like to sponsor the OCRFC - which attracted the fairly prompt response that this would be 'unlikely'. What few people know, however, because Trevor preferred it that way, was that he was personally hugely generous in supporting financially the recently completed redevelopment of the Old Cranleighan Club facility at Thames Ditton.
Business pressures meant that Trevor was always running, but he found time to attend the Grand Opening of these new facilities on 25 October 1997 - when he, reluctantly, consented to public acknowledgement of that generosity.
The family that is Cranleigh has lost an immense commercial talent and a most generous benefactor. And many of us have lost a personal friend. Trevor was a true son of Cranleigh. In its way, there can be no greater tribute.
I am in Richard Branson's house having lunch. "OK", said Richard, "we will do it, but you will have to agree the numbers with Trevor Abbott. I'll get him on the phone and introduce you". Who is this Trevor Abbott? 'Cos getting him on the phone is easier said than done - even for Richard Branson! Anyway, eventually we speak and agree to meet the next day in - of all places - the lobby of the Park Lane Hotel at Hyde Park. In order to be recognised, Trevor described his appearance and what he would be wearing: tall, blue tie, blue jacket, grey trousers - 4.00pm sharp. At 5.00 pm we meet amongst the cucumber sandwiches and tourists and the man I meet was not only late, but not all that tall, tieless and wearing a suit. Trevor liked to put one on the back foot.
And so it was during our negotiations. Not once did we have a conventional meeting at a conventional place - Trevor preferred hotel lobbies, airport lounges, even a brisk walk from Campden Hill Road to Holland Park. My solicitor was outraged by the suggestion that we should meet at 7.30 am at a motorway service station! Me, I admired his style and when the ink was finally dry on a deal entirely of Trevor's framing, I came to enjoy our brief working relationship. I came also, as I know Trevor did, to admire and be grateful to his guardian angels, Shirley and Sacha.
I wish there were more like Trevor around, I wish I had known him better and I wish his spirit eternal peace.
On behalf of everyone in William Grant & Sons who knew Trevor, how much we held him in high regard, not only as a businessman, but also as an honourable and kind person.
Trevor was a good friend and very astute business partner. He will, and is being sadly missed.
The news of Trevor's death was a terrible shock to the whole team at Passport Alliance, Trevor's newly formed venture capital company. Our thoughts are with his family, who have our every sympathy.
For those who had worked closely with Trevor, his formidable skills as a businessman were obvious. His relaxed approach could easily give the impression of someone who was too "laid-back", but under the easygoing exterior was a razor-sharp intelligence, vast experience and a way with people which made him the most skilled "deal-maker" I have ever come across.
He was someone of the old school, for whom "my word is my bond" was a guiding principle, and would always try to adhere to the spirit of an agreement rather than hide behind semantics. He successfully conceived and negotiated many international partnerships, and was held in great respect by many of his opposite numbers.
Trevor was incredibly loyal to those who worked with him, and was very generous to people connected with him both in business and in a personal capacity. I had the sad task of going through some of Trevor's papers after his death, and was taken aback by the number of people whom he had helped, often anonymously. He never flaunted these acts of generosity.
Trevor was very committed in his work, and as many of us could testify, he expected a lot from those around him. He sometimes forgot that not everyone could work at his pace! Nevertheless, he had a sense of fun about him and a certain stoicism, which could lighten things up when the going got tough. He will be greatly missed.
From my point of view Trevor was one of the most hard-working, professional, honest, and straightforward people one could possibly wish to deal with, and over the years we have learned to place a great deal of trust in him and in his judgement.
I always came away after being in Trev's company, enthused and excited about the future - whether it was from tennis, golf or just at the office.
Rock: anchor, cornerstone, foundation, mainstay, protection, support, tower of strength.
Trevor, you were all of these things and more to me, Ben, Cherry and Candy, and to so many, many other people.
In the words of Lord Seith (1889-1972), former chairman, Marks and Spencer:
"Leaders must be seen to be up front, up to date, up to their job and up early in the morning."
He would not have been disappointed.
Trevor's good humoured easy charm and loyal friendship will be missed greatly all the more when there might for once have been more time to share it. His inexhaustible energy and relentless determination to master and close ever more complex financial arrangements were legendary. Always masked by an easy relaxed manner personified but his own personal dress code of loose tie with the top button of his shirt undone, indicative of his bridge between the international financial community and Richard's pullovers! A truly sad and premature loss.
Remembering a very nice guy whose kindness I will not forget - we will miss you Trevor - Rest in Peace.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay a personal tribute to Trevor, having worked as his Personal Assistant for over nine years, for the most part at the Virgin Group of Companies. Although I have worked for Trevor's company Passport Alliance, for the last few months, today is my last day at Virgin and, it is with much sadness, that I now say goodbye. Unfortunately, I have not been able to say my goodbyes in person, due to the recent tragedy, which occurred only a few days ago - I refer of course to Trevor's tragic and untimely death.
Shortly after starting to work directly for Trevor, Group Finance Director, late in the summer of 1988, I was soon to become involved in the happy event and personal arrangements for Trevor's wedding to Claire in January 1989. As you can imagine, it is with much melancholy that, only last Thursday, just days before my planned departure, I very sadly attended his funeral. It is all the more tragic in that he was only 47 years old and should have had so many more years.
I worked closely with him on a myriad of projects and deals, which undoubtedly made Virgin the diverse and highly successful group of companies it is today. During the summer of 1988, Trevor worked hard on making arrangements to buy back the company from the shareholders, an idea that Trevor originated. With the backing of the other Group Board Directors, Trevor set about arranging the complex banking facilities, crucial to the success of this monumental task - no mean feat, believe me, necessitating hours of constant phone calls and hours of both internal and external meetings.
Soon after Don Cruickshanks's departure from Virgin, after the buy back deal was completed, Trevor became Group Managing Director. In this new role he worked closely with Richard on many diverse deals and liased with senior executives of many Virgin companies on a regular basis. Trevor was instrumental in the setting up of the Virgin Retail operation in Japan, North America and Europe and was also Executive Director of the Virgin Travel Group. His responsibilities were massive and, likewise, his workload was enormous, necessitating a great deal of travel overseas. Despite this meaning he would often be away from his family (which he did not enjoy), he nonetheless carried out his duties unstintingly and put in an incredible amount of hours, often going without sleep, at a pace which would frighten lesser mortals!
Condolences and sympathies have been arriving constantly in huge numbers by phone, fax and letters - these have come from bankers and financiers, who worked closely with Trevor on the buy back financing, and also the many other subsequent deals. These expressions show how greatly he was respected by many senior executives both within and outside the Virgin organisation, not forgetting friends, colleagues and associates both in the UK and worldwide. Even though he held such a high position as Group Managing Director, he was not entirely well known by everyone at Virgin, but that was the very nature of the man. He was the opposite of Richard in that he was a very quiet, intensely private man, who shunned any publicity. Although Trevor is very sadly no longer with us, he was certainly one of the most important influences in the making of the Virgin Group of Companies.
I would simply ask you to say a prayer for his family, as he leaves behind a widow and five children, whom he loved very much, and also raise your glass to Trevor, the quiet man, who really contributed so much to the success of Virgin, and hope that he now rests in peace.
A man of deep integrity with a smile.
When your father died so tragically and unexpectedly last term I, like many others in the Cranleigh community, felt a profound sense of shock, grief and intense sympathy for you and all the family. Those feelings have not lessened.
I only had the privilege of meeting Trevor on about half a dozen times, but two were particularly critical experiences in my life. He and the Chairman of the Governors came to call on me in my house at Lord Wandsworth College on a spring day in 1996…. the dynamism and passionate interest communicated about Cranleigh (of course skillfully masked by an amazingly laid-back manner!) impressed me deeply. With Governors like that I wanted to work at Cranleigh - I applied and you know the rest. He was an outstanding Governor.
The second occasion was at Wisley as his guest - he destroyed my golfing potential with a simple masterstroke: he organised a caddy for me…. but not one for himself! The words "three quarter shaft, slightly open stance and fade it over the bunker, sir" remain a poignant memory of the day… was it seven and six or possibly five and four?!
But I shall mostly remember his kindness, thoughtfulness and courtesy. Coming from a man of such immense talents they left their mark.
It's a gentle touch,
A numbing word on an unsuspecting mind.
You've been here before,
Not like this, of course,
Not like this
But somewhere in your very core
The revelation plays with you,
Stays with you.
Nothing loud, nothing shocking,
Just a continuing coda,
An ending bearing a future
Still unlocking the sad melody of tomorrow,
Charging it with such a scattering of sorrow.
It touches, and reverberates softly
With spreading ripples of thought and word,
Sometimes strong words writ large
To fall short and fade,
As they ought.
Others touch your mind with a glancing blow.
So many unidentified,
So many known,
So many out-grown.
The very touching a welcome and unwelcome tax
Of many figures, many facts.
This is one of too many unhappy returns,
One last straw of something ventured,
A falling shadow of something gained.
For the rest, the remainder,
It can be only slowly, inadequately unfurled
By those vested with administrative order,
In the sound of a brief cacophony
From the fading echoes of a public's news,
And by those in whom we place our trust,
As we must.
The loss still touches you,
Yet we all must go whoever pays the piper.
Thoughts of this and others intrude again.
You've been here before
Yet others in this saga take the full force,
And much, much more than this, of course.
Now that each night is nearly over,
One hand turns out the light
As another draws the filters from another's dawn.
It't too quiet for such a drama,
Too quiet for a heavy hand.
It's time for the gentler touch,
Thought by thought.
Today things changed,
It was ever thus, of course.
I worked with Trevor over ten years and found him a thoroughly nice bloke. Kind humourous, sceptical, unpretentious and very capable, I only wish I had known him a little better.
Some random memories of Trevor:
An unusual mix of common sense and lateral thinking that got to the heart of business problems (and the charm to persuade colleagues and partners of the solution).
Serious but with an occasional surprising display of wit - the Virgin Group flotation and privatisation dinners, which were followed by Trevor as rap poet with a couplet on each professional advisor involved.
Enormous pride in and affection for his children.
Golf days that were far, far more than a good excuse for a day out of the office, brilliantly organised, generously prized and relaxing in good company.
Gleneagles: a wedding with four guests and two anniversary celebrations - no guest was allowed to pay a penny for anything.
Politics: a belief in the last government's policies accompanied by a frustration with their implementation, a belief that more businessmen should go into government (maybe he would have done so one day…?)
When all the over-work of life
Is finished once, and fast asleep
We swerve no more beneath the knife
But taste that silence cool and deep;
Forgetful of the highways rough,
Forgetful of the thorny scourge,
Forgetful of the tossing surge,
The shall we find it is enough?
How can we say 'enough' on earth -
'Enough' with such a craving heart?
I have not found it since my birth,
But still have bartered part for part.
I have not held and hugged the whole,
But paid the old to gain the new;
Much have I paid yet much is due,
Till I am beggared sense and soul.
I used to labour, used to strive
For pleasure with a restless will:
Now if I save my soul alive
All else what matters good or ill?
I used to dream alone, to plan
Unspoken hopes and days to come:-
Of all my past this is the sum -
I will not lean on a child of man.
Not in this world of hope deferred,
This world of perishable stuff:-
Eye hath not seen nor hath heard
Nor heart conceived that full 'enough' :
Here moans the separating sea,
Here harvests fail, here breaks the heart:
There God shall join and no man part,
I full of Christ and Christ of me.
Trevor's untimely departure from this life has left a hole in the hearts of family and friends that will never be filled. He was truly good, loving and compassionate man whose kindness and generosity, especially to those in trouble, was limitless and totally undemanding. His reward was the deep love and gratitude of his family and of all who knew him well.
We shall remember him always and we fervently pray that he will now find the peace that inevitably eluded him so often in life.
Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I and you are you: whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone; wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household work that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is absolutely unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.