Cardiff Rugby pay tribute to Life President Peter Thomas who has died aged 79

Cardiff Rugby said the club "would not exist" if not for Peter Thomas' "vast and unwavering generosity and support." Credit: Cardiff Rugby

Cardiff Rugby has paid tribute to their Life President, Peter Thomas CBE, who died aged 79.

Mr Thomas, who was diagnosed with lung cancer at the beginning of 2021, passed away peacefully at his Cardiff home surrounded by his family in the early hours.

Peter is survived by his wife Babs, with whom he was set to celebrate his Golden Wedding Anniversary this year, children Holly, Debs, Steph and Rod, and nine grandchildren.

In a statement, Cardiff Rugby said: "He began his long and unparalleled association with the Blue and Blacks when he was selected for Cardiff Youth in 1961, alongside the likes of Ian Robinson and Jim Mills.

"That was the beginning of an immense contribution to the club, spanning more than 60 years as a player, benefactor, patron, chairman, Life President and supporter.

"An unrivalled Arms Park legend, Peter leaves an immeasurable legacy at his beloved club, which would not exist if not for his vast and unwavering generosity and support."

Tributes have been pouring in since the announcement of Mr Thomas' death from players and fellow clubs.

Former rugby player Jim Mills shared a picture of him with Mr Thomas - his friend of "over 60 years".

Cardiff Rugby's statement continues in full:

During his playing days, Peter made 11 first team appearances for the Blue and Blacks and toured South Africa in 1967. He spent the majority of his playing career with the Rags, gaining his cap and winning the Silver Ball in 1966, while also enjoying short stints with Bedwas and Ebbw Vale.

A lifelong supporter, he became a patron of the club in 1990 and served as chairman from 1996, when the game went professional, to 2018, when he stepped down but remained a major share holder and was given the honorary position of Life President.

During his tenure as chairman, Peter enjoyed numerous Welsh Cup successes, a league title, European final, EDF Energy Cup and two European Challenge Cup titles.

He has remained heavily involved in his club and watched Friday night’s BKT United Rugby Championship bonus-point victory over Zebre Parma from the comfort of his home.

Peter also achieved enormous success in the commercial world, growing from humble beginnings in Merthyr Tydfil to become one of Wales’ successful and eminent businessmen.

Peter made his fortune in the food industry with Peter’s Savoury Products, which he set up with his brother Sir Stanley Thomas and sister Mary. Peter’s Pies grew to a £70million turnover operation, which was sold for £75million in 1988, growing to £105million.

In 1992, the brothers joined forces with fellow former Cardiff Rugby benefactor, and Life Patron, Paul Bailey to launch Thomas Bailey Investments.

Through TBI, the trio previously managed and operated more than 80 airports and owned Cardiff International Airport, Belfast International, Orlando Sandford International, Stockholm Skavsta and Luton Airport.

Peter also launched Atlantic Property Developments, which has grown to become one of the leading property development companies in Wales and has a vast portfolio of commercial properties across the UK.

His entrepreneurial skills are further highlighted by his involvement in Festival Parks Europe Ltd, the company responsible for several major integrated leisure and retail developments in Scandinavia and Mallorca.

In 2012, Peter was appointed CBE for services to business, sport and charitable work in Wales.

Through the Atlantic Foundation, Peter has supported countless organisations via grants, while he has also been heavily involved in the Cardiff Rugby Community Foundation. Peter has also been a keen supporter of the arts in Wales, particularly the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Only Boys Aloud.

Peter remained a regular at Cardiff Arms Park, and both Cardiff Rugby and Cardiff RFC matches home and away, until the final days of his life.

He has been one of the most important figures in the history of Welsh rugby and will be remembered as a true gentleman, who was both humble and enormously generous with his time, knowledge and wealth.

From his playing days to his unwavering and steadfast leadership, business acumen and financial support as a director and benefactor, Thomas will be remembered as one of the most important and influential figures in the unrivalled history of Cardiff Rugby.

The club was a lifelong passion and we will forever be indebted to Peter and the Thomas family.