Former Tolly Cobbold boss dies in north east after battle with cancer

Former Tolly Cobbold boss John Sands. Picture: PETER SANDS

Former Tolly Cobbold boss John Sands. Picture: PETER SANDS - Credit: Archant

The man who masterminded Tolly Cobbold’s merger with a national brewery company has died after a battle with cancer.

John Sands was chief executive of the brewery after it merged with north eastern brewer Camerons and London-based Brent Walker in the 1980s. He also helped found the Pubmaster chain.

Mr Sands, 69, lived in the North East and became managing director at Camerons Brewery in Hartlepool.

As well as running the Hartlepool brewery he became managing director at Tolly Cobbold and Brent Walker Inns. He led a management buyout of the Pubmaster in 1996 to become chief executive and, in 2002, chairman.

The company bought Wearside brewery Vaux, Mercury Taverns, the Devonshire Pub company, Soltaire Leisure in Scotland, Heritage Inns and 1,200 Inn Partnership pubs for a £500 million deal. Pubmaster became the biggest private-tenanted pub company in Britain with 3,200 pubs.


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He chose to run the company from his native North-East, in Hartlepool. In 2002 he was named in the UK’s top ten most influential people in the licenced trade industry and was voted North East Business Executive of the Year.

Mr Sands sold Pubmaster to Punch Taverns in 2003 for £1.3 billion.

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He was born on October 8, 1947, in Newcastle. He left school in Whitley Bay at 18 and studied at Rutherford college of technology (now Northumbria University). His first job was at Dunlop where he moved into human resources and spent three years in Cheshire – the only time he lived outside of his beloved North-East.

In 1980 he was headhunted by Camerons and 18 months later he was asked to join the board as tied trade director and in 1985 became MD.

Mr Sands’s family said: “It is with deep regret and terrible sadness that John passed away on Monday. His wife, Susan, and four children were at his bedside at the Butterwick Hospice in Stockton. John accepted his illness with typical stoicism and strength. He will be terribly missed by his family and his many friends.”

He lived in Wynyard with his wife Susan who he married in Tynemouth in 1969. They had four children, Heather, Kevin, Kathryn and Jonathan and there were nine grandchildren and a great grandson.

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