Death of Mr Monopoly, Yorkshire businessman Victor Watson, at 86

Victor Watson. PA Photo: Paul Saxby.
Victor Watson. PA Photo: Paul Saxby.

Legendary Leeds businessman Victor Watson CBE, heir to the Waddingtons Monopoly empire and famous for taking on Robert Maxwell, has died aged 86.

A former 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers after World War II, Mr Watson joined the Leeds-based company John Waddington Ltd in 1951, and was made chairman in 1977 until his retirement in 1993.

During his time there, he played a major role in helping to develop the board game Monopoly, which his grandfather - also called Victor - had brought to Britain in the 1930s.

Mr Watson also held a wide range of other posts in Leeds, including President and Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Director of Yorkshire Television and Director of the Leeds and Holbeck Building Society.

His brother, John Watson, said today: “He had lots of competitors but no enemies. He put a great store on simple reliability. He was an unusual combination, with a rare judgement of businesses and of people.

“For a while he was probably the best after dinner speaker in Yorkshire. With classic modesty, he though it was because he didn’t charge a fee. He was also an extremely warm family man.”

In his biography, Mr Watson recalled saving Waddingtons from the clutches of predators like Robert Maxwell and turning it into one of the best-loved names in business.

The story began with the dramatic rise of his grandfather, Victor Hugo Watson, whose business acumen transformed the firm from a struggling provincial printer into a market leader. His son, Norman Watson, helped to associate Waddingtons with household names like Cluedo.

Victor Watson’s own time at the helm was turbulent. As the company grew, he had to fight off takeover bids from Robert Maxwell’s British Printing and Communications Corporation.

Mr Watson grew up in Horsforth, near Leeds, and as an apprentice at Waddingtons used to make little wooden houses for board games.

He remained an active member of the business community and was partnership president of Print Yorkshire, a partnership between the British Printing Industries Federation and Yorkshire Forward.

In 2007, Mr Watson received the British Printing Industries’ Federation’s first award for Outstanding Contribution to the Printing Industry.

He was also chairman of governors at Gateways School, a trustee of Martin House Hospice and a former President at the Northern Division of Mencap.