Richard Budge, the businessman who was crowned “King Coal” after successfully spear-heading the purchase of State-owned British Coal’s mining assets when the industry was privatised over 20 years ago, died today (Monday) at the age of 69. Mr Budge was born in 1947, the year the UK coal industry, with almost a thousand deep mines and a million employees, was nationalised and became the National Coal Board.
Almost half a century later when the “ultimate privatisation” was completed, there were just 19 deep mines in production – and Mr Budge’s Doncaster-based RJB Mining company bought all but two of them.
The three English coalfield packages embracing 17 deep mines, 30 surface mines, over 400 million tonnes of reserves and nearly 50,000 acres of land, cost RJB Mining, of which Budge was Chief Executive, £815 million. Some £700 million was paid to the government on completion on December 30, 1994, and the remaining bank acquisition debt was paid off within two years.
Lincolnshire-born, he went to Boston Grammar school and then on to Manchester University to study Fine Arts. He left to join the Retford-based company AF Budge owned by his late brother Tony, which was involved in civil engineering projects, constructing major motorway interchanges and extracting coal from seams laying close to the surface.
In 1992, he bought the Opencast Coal and Plant Division from the family business. He bought a small deep mine in Northumberland, contracted for surface mine sites, and as the government prepared for the sale of what former Energy Secretary Cecil Parkinson had described as the “ultimate privatisation”, rescued three deep mines which British Coal had decided would play no part in the privatisation process. These “lease and licence” mines went on to produce almost 20 million tonnes of coal for power stations and industry before they closed.
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