He ran one of Doncaster’s best known businesses, and then transformed one of the town’s sports clubs into a borough success story.
And now Tony de Mulder’s work over the last 50 years has been recognised by his business colleagues in the borough.
The 75-year-old was presented with the Doncaster Chamber’s lifetime achievement award at the 20th Doncaster Business Awards, at Doncaster Racecourse, in honour of his achievements with both what was his family firm, Prosper de Mulder, and for the transformation he has driven at Doncaster Knights, which is now a semi-professional rugby union club.
He was presented with the award by Steve Lloyd, the businessman who has been working alongside him as one of the two benefactors who have been driving the rugby club forward. Both used to play for the club.
Mr de Mulder said he was full of pride at receiving the award.
Prosper de Mulder was set up in the 1920s, and recycles waste from meat and food industries.
It was set up by and carried the name of Tony’s grandfather, who was a Belgian refugee who fled his homeland as the Germans invaded during World War One.
During the war, Tony’s grandfather worked in a munitions factory in Crewe, before setting up his firm in Doncaster in 1924.
Tony joined the firm as a 17-year-old in 1962 – the same year as he joined Doncaster Rugby Club.
He invested in the club and developed it, after he and Steve decided they wanted to take it up the leagues.
They set a record of nine promotions, and are now in the second highest division in the sport in England.
After picking up his award, Tony told the Doncaster Free Press: “The main interest for the club is sustainability. We have now built one of the best rugby stadiums in the north of England, if not the whole of England.
“We’ve promoted the game and the club very heavily, and we’re delighted with the number of people we have playing now – there are 650 men, women and children.”
Tony sold the Prosper de Mulder business two years ago to the German-based firm Saria, but he still does some work for the company, as an advisor.
Saria was also a winner at the business awards, picking up the Success in International Markets award for its work in expanding into new markets outside the UK.
“It feels like a double success for me at the awards,” said Tony. “It’s really pleasing to see Saria winning an award too.
“With the rugby club, my ambition for the future is to get promotion to the premiership, but only if the finances in the game are fair, which is something we’re fighting for.”
“It is brilliant to have received this award.”
Tony is now chief executive of the rugby club, and said he was most excited about his award for his work with the club.
Picking up his award on the stage, he said: “I’m overwhelmed, to say the least.” He issued an invitation to people to come and watch the side at its Armthorpe Road ground.
He said the club had gown from the small club it was in the 50s and 60s to the big club it was today.
“Thank you for the support we have from the town," he said. “We’re delighted to work with the Doncaster College, with the academy, and we have some bright prospects playing there.
“Thank you very much.”
‘Punching above their weight’
Doncaster Chamber chief executive Dan Fell praised Doncaster businesses for ‘punching above their weight’ during a time that the Government has been’ too preoccupied with Brexit’ to create an environment for northern businesses to thrive.
In his speech to the awards, he told the audience of around 800: “The Government has let northern businesses down on infrastructure investment and not listened to calls for a One Yorkshire devolution settlement; the Northern Powerhouse has a lovely ring to it but, in the present climate, businesses need action not buzz words.
“Similarly, there is an ever-widening gap between the rhetoric and activity on the ground when it comes to education and skills policy; indeed, businesses and educationalists alike feedback that they are mortified by an ever narrowing curriculum and the impact that this will have on young people and their employability prospects.
“Meanwhile, we have an opposition that equally does not have a substantive plan on Brexit, is currently prioritising political advantage over the national interest, wants to deliver an unprecedented overreach into the private sector, and has a worrying number of people on the front bench that do not recognise the importance of industry and wealth creation.
“Against this uncomfortable national backdrop, it is even more remarkable that Doncaster is punching so far above its weight. As such, I salute the everyday business heroes in the room tonight that are driving growth, creating jobs and helping to create the Doncaster story.
He described the fortitude, resilience and entrepreneurship of the Doncaster business community in continuing to go for growth in such turbulent economic times as truly remarkable.
He added: “I also want to congratulate our Team Doncaster partners for not buckling under the pressure of austerity but, instead, digging deep and being relentless in their desire to create a place that is open for business and that celebrates enterprise and commerciality.”
Winner Tony de Mulder
Excellence in Customer Service
Runner Up: The Apothecary Urban Spa
Excellence in Corporate, Social and Environmental Responsibility
Winner: Keepmoat Homes
Runner Up: Ellgia Recycling Ltd
Excellence in People Development
Winner: Atherton Godfrey LLP
Runner Up: ProAktive Group Ltd
Success through Partnerships
Winner: Boxes and Packaging (Doncaster) Ltd
Runner Up: Crown Hotel Bawtry
Success through Innovation
Winner: Carlton Forest Group
Runner Up: Boxes and Packaging (Doncaster) Ltd
Business Start Up of the Year
Winner: ParcelPass Transport Ltd
Runner Up: Believe Money Group Limited
Third Sector Organisation of the Year
Winner: The Children's Sleep Charity
Runner Up: Active Fusion
SME Business of the Year
Winner: DigitalXRAID Ltd
Runner Up: Empire Property Concepts
Large Business of the Year
Winner: Clarks Vehicle Conversions Ltd
Runner Up: Doncaster Sheffield Airport
Winner: Ewan Neal - Keyhole Creative
Runner Up: Kallum Speight - URIS Group Limited
Success in International Markets
Winner: Saria Limited
Runner Up: Keyhole Creative